Why hands that rock cradle snuff out lives of their own kids?

In a shocking series of incidents, three cases of maternal filicide (mother killing her child) were reported between August 4 and August 22 in Bengaluru city.

Published: 28th August 2022 07:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th August 2022 07:00 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: In a shocking series of incidents, three cases of maternal filicide (mother killing her child) were reported between August 4 and August 22 in Bengaluru city. Two of the three cases involve mothers who are dentists. One of them surrendered before the police, the other died by suicide after she allegedly killed her 10-year-old daughter and the third - a homemaker - is battling for her life in a hospital ICU after a failed suicide attempt.

“Cases of maternal filicide are extremely disturbing. They highlight the unmet mental health needs of mothers and the skewed gender approach in child rearing in India. The burden of childcare often falls on the mother. The expectations from her are huge from her own family and society, without looking or addressing her own physical and mental health,” said Prof Prabha S Chandra, Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences (Nimhans).

“If the child has a developmental disorder or serious health problem, the mother not only has an additional burden of looking after the child, she also faces stigma and criticism from her family and society at large. A child with development disorder or serious health issues needs support from within the family and from the health system. These are often not available or are not easily accessible,” added the senior psychiatrist, who is also the President Elect of International Association for Women’s Mental Health (IAWMH).

Chandra explained, “Mothers who take the extreme step of filicide are often depressed or have other mental health problems, lack adequate social, physical and emotional support or face domestic violence and other forms of family stress. They may also feel lonely in their role as a parent, worry excessively, lose sleep and be physically exhausted if the young child has a lot of needs and hence feel helpless and hopeless. We must look at all the factors that drove these mothers to take such extreme steps.”

Mothers wracked by depression, substance abuse

In the first incident, the mother had attempted to abandon her child which in itself is a “red flag,” said Chandra. “We need to find out if there was a bonding problem. Was she feeling overwhelmed? Was she depressed or psychotic? How much was she blamed for her child’s condition? It’s a complex issue with ramifications,” said the mental health expert.

She said that while there are mothers, who have a stoic attitude and feel they will take care of their child, there is another set of mothers who feel anxious, depressed and need physical and emotional support. “Such extreme incidents don’t happen in a vacuum. While depression is seen to be a common cause of maternal suicides, depression in women per se is largely a result of social issues such as domestic violence, poor child care support, substance abuse in the partner or poverty,” she added.

(Call helplines: Perinatal psychiatry service for new mothers, Nimhans: 8105711277; For domestic violence - 1091, 181, Nimhans Centre for Well Being for women’s mental health & psychological trauma services - 94808 29670).


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