Filicides: The other side of story

The police should investigate the case using scientific tools.

The murder of a teenager in Kollam allegedly by his mother the other day is indeed a gruesome incident but I feel the police ought to look for the probability of her being a psychiatric patient. It has been a practice world over to investigate this angle in cases of filicide. That the husband of the woman has indicated that she had earlier shown signs of psychiatric disorder makes it all the more incumbent on the investigation team to explore the case in this direction, too. It was not long ago that a youth in Thiruvananthapuram was apprehended on the charge of murdering four of his family members. Discussions at that point veered around issues which ranged from increasing criminalisation of home atmosphere to supernatural powers to the influence of occult practices.

However, it was later found that the youth indeed was suffering from mental disorder and was then treated for it. The tendency to jump into an extramarital angle, when a young mother is involved, is the reflection of the pseudo-moralistic attitudes prevalent in society. One should not label her a criminal and bad before investigation proves so; it could be a case of madness instead, which could be cured. As per a study conducted in United Kingdom in 2013, of the 6,144 cases of homicide, 297 were filicides, and 45 cases were filicide-suicides. Among the instances of filicide, the perpetrators in 195 cases (66 per cent) were fathers. Mothers were more likely than fathers to have a history of mental disorder (66 per cent Vs 27 per cent) and symptoms at the time of the offence (53per cent Vs 23 per cent), most often affective disorder.

The study further said 17 per cent of mothers had schizophrenia or other delusional disorders; overall 8 per cent had schizophrenia and that 37 per cent were mentally ill at the time of committing the offence. As much as 20 per cent of them had previously been in contact with mental health services, 12 per cent within a year of the offence. It's hence evident that there is a need to rule out a mental disorder when a mother commits the murder of the her child. True that there could be cases where there could be influence of other social evils that kills maternal instincts.

It’s a proven fact that some people when afflicted with delusional disorders which are a symptom of psychiatric issues get extraordinary physical powers in their fury to attack imagined persecutors. The police may not be inclined to probe this angle further now that they have cracked the case. It is for the court to consider this possibility. The police should investigate the case using scientific tools. They must be sympathetic to the popular sentiments, for it was a terrible act. But they also need to keep in mind that that the woman had forgotten that she was the hapless boy’s mother. Why did one commit a crime is as bona fide a question as who did it. I would appeal to the investigators to ensure that no mad person gets punished in the eagerness to jail a thousand bad persons. I would also caution people against coming to an impression that all mentally ill are homicidal or violent; it happens only to a negligible segment, who are untreated.

(Dr C J John is a Kochi-based senior consultant psychiatrist)

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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