Wednesday 13 December 2017

Almost half of all murder-suicide cases 'have a mental health link'

Una Butler, who lost her two children and husband in 2010
Una Butler, who lost her two children and husband in 2010

ALMOST half the murder-suicide cases in Ireland over the past 15 years were found to have depression or mental health issues as a major factor.

The finding came as a leading UK researcher, Prof Colin Pritchard of the University of Bournemouth, said another factor in such tragedies was income inequality rather than poverty.

In some cases, this involved an overwhelming fear of a family's future financial plight given outside factors such as unemployment and rising debt.

Since 2000, there have been more than 30 murder-suicide cases in Ireland and 40-plus children have been killed, most by a parent.

Ireland now has one of the highest per capita rates of murder-suicide involving children in the world.


The 2nd International Addressing Filicide Conference in Italy heard that Ireland, uniquely, does not have parental separation as a major factor.

The conference concluded with an appeal for further research into the triggers and warning signs of murder-suicides - and for greater education within the community for better responses.

"The common view was that the entire community needed education on filicide, its existence, its risk factors, the difficulties for the other parent in gaining support and action from services," the conference advised.

Cork mother Una Butler lost her two daughters, Zoe (6) and Ella (2), and her husband, John (43), in an horrific murder-suicide.

John had been suffering from depression and took his own life minutes after killing his adored little girls in the family's Ballycotton, Co Cork, home in November 2010. Una has compiled new statistics for Ireland's murder-suicide crisis.

"From the statistics that I compiled, depression-mental illness was a major factor in at least 13 out of 29 cases here," she said.

Una now wants families to be briefed on mental health treatment programmes.

She also wants patient confidentiality rules to be relaxed when an adult undergoing treatment for a mental health issue is resident in a family environment with children present.

"The welfare of children is paramount when living with someone suffering with their mental health and this should be taken into consideration."

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