Filicide is the description of murder; the victim is a son or daughter, and the murderer is a parent or step parent. Filicide with suicide refers to the murder suicide involving an adult and his or her entire family, including the children. Linda Cylc from the Villanova University expressed that “child murder is not necessarily common, but it is a leading cause of child death in developed countries.”
Filicide in the News
The Wisconsin State Journal reports on filicide-suicide as an act born from the desperate minds of depressed parents who simply do not feel like they can continue to go on. As they contemplate ending their own lives, they inevitably wonder what will happen to their children when they are gone. Eventually they reason that their children will be best served if their lives were ended as well.
Varying Causes of Filicide
Filicide – whether it is maternal filicide or paternal filicide – has made sensational headlines. Postpartum disorders have been blamed in some cases; spousal abuse, domestic violence, divorces gone bad, custody battles, and unrequited love between adults are also to blame for incidents of filicide.
According to Cylc’s study, these cases are rarer than filicides involving supposed altruistic motives, such as the thinking that the child would be better served to be dead – with the parents.
Yet in a changing economy it becomes clear that financial worries, impending bankruptcies, impending foreclosure and homelessness, and also the uncertainty of the breakup of a marriage – particularly one that collapsed under the weight of financial problems – have a decided hand in cases of recent filicides.
Filicide in an Economic Depression
The Wisconsin State Journal cited a study done by the University Hospitals of Cleveland that revealed the causation of filicide suicides – in the studied cases – to have been born from financial desperation from which the parent saw no way to extricate themselves.
Avoiding Filicide is up to You!
So why am I writing this downer on the day before Thanksgiving? Recent news stories sensationalizing filicide suicides are one reason. Having heard a mother some years ago state that she felt she just sometimes wanted to “end it all” and take her child with her, and only being able to stare at her in horror is another. (She did not go through with it but got help.)
I am also writing this because the holiday season is upon us and suicide rates notoriously surge during this time of the year. Last but not least, I am writing this article because you (yes you) may be able to prevent a filicide. Cylc reveals that “in the case of altruistic filicide … the crime is … often premeditated, planned logically, and accomplished methodically.” In spite of this evidence, there are few – if any – warning signs.
By all reports, parents committing filicide are good parents, devoted to their children, loving and caring. They are not the monsters self protective common sense wants you to believe them to be. This makes it hard to predict such a situation from happening. Nonetheless, you may be able to prevent filicide.
Step One: Get involved. If you know a family that is struggling financially, or if a friend or neighbor shares their desperation at not having a gift for their kids for the holidays, help out; put a $50 in a blank envelope and anonymously drop it through the mail slot, signed “from Santa” for “the kids.”
Buy some extra groceries and ask your friend if they could take them off your hands because you just bought too much stuff and don’t want it all to go bad. There are little ways of helping someone without making it look like a handout. Think of how you would want to be helped out in dire financial straits, and then do likewise.
Step Two: If you know a parent who admits to suicidal thoughts, get help. Sure, it might just be talk. Then again, it might not. Everyone has heard the suggestion that those who threaten suicide will not actually commit it; hogwash!
A parent who talks about suicide may be a parent who commits filicide – suicide. Contact the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and get referrals for help in your area.
Step Three: Ask about the suicidal parent’s plan for the kids if s/he is gone. Who will take care of them? If it becomes apparent that filicide is part of the equation or may become part of the thought process at some time, contact child protective services.
Remember that in this situation it is not the best interest of the parent you are looking after, but the best interest of the child. Phone numbers vary by state. If all else fails, at least contact the national child abuse hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child and ask for referrals in your area.
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/local/315498; http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/; http://www.childhelp.org/