health

A mother and baby died falling from a high-rise building. But she should not be condemned.

You might think there’s always help for sufferers of mental illness. You are wrong. Yes, completely and utterly wrong.

Last week, a mother and her four month old baby plunged to their deaths from a Melbourne CBD apartment building’s balcony in what appears to be a suicide. I’m certain that society, the media, and perhaps even the justice system will call it a murder–suicide, but I will not. The word “murder” implies that the mother had control, and intent. I would hazard a guess that she had neither. I imagine she didn’t make a choice to kill herself and her child, but rather felt that she had no other option.

Reading about events like this one breaks everyone’s hearts, and also often brings up a lot of anger. But while most commentators are angry at and condemning the mother in this scenario, I am angry at the society and severely under resourced health departments that allowed it to happen.

suffering mental illness
"I am angry at the society and severely lacking health departments that allowed it to happen." Image via iStock.

The first article I read about this sad event in on Facebook, I made the grave mistake of reading the reader comments. Comments like “The baby didn't deserve this. If she had mental illness as everyone puts it down to these days, there's always help! We live in a country where help is readily available. Adoption is available if she couldn't cope with having her baby.”

To that commenter, and the dozens of others commenting along similar lines and with sickening vitriol, not even considering this poor woman’s family and friends, I have to say this: You are so, so wrong.

"You are so, so wrong." Image via iStock.
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Help is not readily available for sufferers of mental illness in this country. And you want to know why? Why so many don’t even ask for help? It’s because of people like you, who read about sad incidents like this, and comment with your judgmental, unsupportive drivel. If someone was having a heart attack or stroke, they wouldn’t be judged and they wouldn’t for a moment question getting medical attention. For mental illness however, the stigma is alive and well.

Even many medical practitioners still don’t understand it. I have suffered severe depression, both post-natal and general, been on the brink of suicide more times than I can count, and been blatantly ignored by medical professionals.

Once, when my daughter was a baby, I took myself to the Emergency Department at my local hospital because I was afraid that I would kill myself without help, and the doctor on duty called my husband to come and collect me. No follow up. I can recall another time I was in my GP’s office, completely broken, terrified, and lower than I’d ever been. My doctor was desperately phoning around for help, saying (into the phone), “I have a young mother in a desperate situation; she has a baby in her care and someone needs to check on her at home and help”, and do you know where he got? Nowhere. There was no help at all. The hospital even said that to be admitted, I’d need to be brought in my police.

The facts on postnatal depression. Post continues below. 

So you see, when I read comments by people in society that just perpetuate the stigma around mental illness, and cry “Murderer! She should have asked for help!” I get angry. Because the help isn’t out there, and if it is, it’s people like you who prevent sufferers from asking for it.

To the mother and her baby who died last week, and their friends and family, I’m sorry. All I can think is “but for the grace of God go I”. And I’m not even religious.

If you would like to speak to someone or get help for you or someone you know, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit the Lifeline website.

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