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Chicago suicides refocus spotlight on depression

Associated Press, various newspapers in Canada and the U.S.A., By LINDSEY TANNER. July 20, 2001

CHICAGO -- A mother of quadruplets flees home and drowns herself in Lake Michigan less than a week after their births.

Another new mother disappears from her house several months after her baby is born and jumps to her death from a 12th-story hotel window.

Aracely Erives, whose body was found in the lake on Wednesday, and Melanie Stokes, who died June 11, were among four new mothers to commit suicide in Chicago over the past two months, authorities say.

The women could have met pushing strollers in the park, sharing stories of sleepless nights, first smiles and favorite lullabies. Instead, at a time that is supposed to bring wondrous joy, they were all struck by postpartum depression.

The condition has been in the spotlight recently because of Andrea Yates, a Houston woman said to have been afflicted with the most severe form of the illness. She is accused of drowning her five children in the bathtub June 20.

Authorities believe the recent cases do not mean there is any surge in postpartum depression-linked violence, but rather reflect a slowly growing awareness of the baffling disorder.

Experts admit they know frustratingly little about postpartum depression and its causes. And some say not enough is being done to detect it before tragedy strikes.

"People dismiss it and say that you can just snap out of it, that you've chosen to feel this way. That is totally wrong," said Lisa Anderson, a Tacoma, Wash., shipping company auditor. She went to several doctors before finding one who took her seriously when she developed postpartum depression after the birth of her third child last year.

Anderson, 33, said she thought her family was better off without her and contemplated suicide. But medication and counselling helped her, and she said women should know "they shouldn't blame themselves for this illness."

Postpartum depression happens in about 10 percent of pregnancies and typically develops within the first few weeks after childbirth, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It is often blamed on the dramatic drop in estrogen and progesterone, pregnancy-sustaining hormones, that occurs with childbirth. But there is little scientific evidence to support that theory, said Dr. Valerie Davis Raskin, a University of Chicago psychiatrist.

An NIH study is seeking to test the theory by using drugs to create a "scaled-down" hormonal state of pregnancy in non-pregnant women and then measuring their mood after immediate withdrawal of the synthetic hormones.

One problem is trying to figure out which women are susceptible, since all women experience a hormone crash after giving birth but only a fraction develop postpartum depression, Raskin said.

The condition is known to run in families, and women who had had previous mental ailments, including an extreme form of premenstrual syndrome, also face an increased risk, she said.

Women with difficult pregnancies, such as 27-year-old Erives, who spent more than a month on bedrest, are also at risk.

Carol Blocker, Stokes' mother, said her daughter's symptoms began soon after her baby's birth in February. "She stopped eating, she couldn't sleep, she was very agitated," Blocker said Thursday. "She told me that she felt like a walking zombie. She she told me she was a living corpse."

Stokes, 41, was eventually hospitalized and diagnosed with postpartum psychosis, an extreme variation that affects one in 500 to 1,000 women. But she was later sent home.

Stokes' mother is promoting legislation Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., introduced in her daughter's name that seeks more research and services for postpartum depression victims. "I'm not going to let her die in vain," Blocker said.

The U.S. government does not track postpartum depression-related violence, but estimates that up to 200 U.S. infants a year are killed and many more suicides are committed by afflicted mothers, said Laurence Kruckman, a medical anthropologist at Indiana University in Pennsylvania.

Kruckman said the United States lags behind places like Britain, where all new mothers are evaluated for postpartum depression before they are sent home, and nurses make at least two mandatory home visits to check for symptoms within 40 days of childbirth.

At Indiana Hospital outside Pittsburgh, where Kruckman works as a consultant, all new mothers are screened for postpartum depression and are offered free support-group sessions with their babies where experts look for symptoms.

New York and New Jersey are the only states that require hospitals to give mothers information on postpartum depression, said Sonia Murdock, president of Postpartum Support International, a Santa Barbara, California., group.

Mainichi Daily News| Woman who cut off her newborn son's genitals handed 5-year prison term

Woman who cut off her newborn son's private parts handed 5-year prison term

Mainichi Daily News, Sakai, Osaka, Japan, November 26, 2006

SAKAI, Osaka -- A woman accused of cutting off her newborn son's private parts in 2004 was ordered Monday to spend five years behind bars.

The Sakai branch of the Osaka District Court convicted Shizue Tamura, 27, a resident of Izumi, Osaka Prefecture, of inflicting bodily injury.

"The way she committed the crime was unprecedented, inhumane and cruel," Presiding Judge Masahiro Hosoi said as he handed down the ruling. Prosecutors had demanded an eight-year prison term.  Read More ..

Toronto Sun logo

Mom's death dance


Toronto Sun
September 29, 2004

SINGLE MOM Clara DaSilva admitted yesterday she danced the night away while her 2-year-daughter was dying of dehydration in a sweltering apartment. Tiny toddler Adrianna Maria DaSilva was abandoned for at least 33 hours in a 35C room before her mom discovered her dead on Sept. 9, 2002.

Clara DaSilva, 24, pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Justice David Watt will sentence her shortly after Jan. 17 following a five-day trial with one contested fact -- the allegation that her purse, with keys and cash, was stolen at a club the day of her child's death.   Read More ..

Canadian Press - New Brunswick woman ruled responsible in burning of baby's body

New Brunswick woman ruled responsible in burning of baby's body

ST. STEPHEN, N.B. - A New Brunswick judge says a woman who burned and dismembered her newborn son is criminally responsible for her actions.

Becky Sue Morrow earlier pleaded guilty to offering an indignity to a dead body and disposing of a newborn with the intent of concealing a delivery.

Judge David Walker ruled Friday that the 27-year-old woman may have been suffering from a mental disorder when she delivered the baby but that that was not the case when the baby's body was burned and its remains hidden.

It is not known if the baby was alive at the time of birth.

At a hearing last month, the court heard contrasting reports from the two psychiatrists. One said Ms. Morrow was in a "disassociated" mental state when the crime occurred. The other said she clearly planned her actions and understood the consequences.

Associated Press logo

Woman convicted of killing 3 kids after custody battle


HELSINKI, Finland - A court in Finland has convicted a woman of murdering her three young children and has given her a life sentence.

The Espoo District Court says Thai-born Yu-Hsiu Fu was found guilty of strangling her 8-year-old twin daughters and 1-year-old son in her home.

She tried to kill herself afterward.

The verdict on Tuesday says the 41-year-old woman was found to be of sound mind at the time of the murders.

Court papers show the murders were preceded by a bitter custody battle with her Finnish husband who was living separately from her at the time of the murders.

A life sentence in Finland mean convicts usually serve at least 11 years in prison.

Mothers Who Kill Their Children
Canadian Press - Mother child abuse - sentenced 16 years in jail

Ontario woman convicted of son's starvation death granted full parole

Canadian Press
Wednesday, May. 22, 2002

KINGSTON, Ont. (CP) -- An Ontario woman who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in one of Canada's stiffest penalties for child abuse will be released on full parole after serving less than half her term.

Lorelei Turner, 38, and her husband Steven were convicted of manslaughter in July 1995 for beating and starving their three-year-old son John to death in a case that horrified Canadians who followed the trial.

But on Wednesday, a panel of the National Parole Board in this eastern Ontario city ruled Turner will be released but placed on probation until July 2011.

Until then, she must remain within 25 kilometres of her residence, is not allowed unsupervised contact with anyone under 16, and must continue to receive counselling.

"The board would have looked at the risk and obviously found a low risk to reoffend," Carol Sparling of the National Parole Board said Wednesday.


Yeeda Topham killed her baby son but walks free

Australian Associated Press
December 05, 2008

A WOMAN who killed her infant son by jumping with him from the eighth floor of a city apartment block has walked free after being convicted of manslaughter.

Yeeda Topham, 40, of Roleystone near Perth, had pleaded guilty in the West Australian Supreme Court to a charge of unlawfully killing 21-month-old James Topham on November 5 last year.    Read More ..

Mother Charged with Killing Her Baby

Firefighters Find Baby's Body In Washing Machine

Fire Officials Claim Fire Intentionally Set

NBC4-TV, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

LOS ANGELES, USA -- Murder charges are expected to be filed against a woman whose infant son's body was found in a washing machine after firefighters doused what they say was an intentionally set fire, authorities said Tuesday.

Latunga Starks, 32, was taken into custody last night, according to the Sheriff's Department Web site.

Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Dennis Shirey identified the mother and her nearly 3-month-old son, Michael Kelvin Thompson.

Toronto Sun - Mother found guilty of killing all 4 babies

"Murder in the nursery"
Australian mom killed her 4 babies

TORONTO SUN, May 23, 2003

It seemed a tragic coincidence - at first.

Craig and Kathleen Folbigg's first son died in his sleep at 19 days old. Their next child, Patrick, died two years later at nine months.

Still, it was after their fourth baby died before Australian police suspected something was terribly wrong.

In Sydney's New South Wales State Supreme Court this week, Kathleen Folbigg, 35, was found guilty of killing all four of her babies.

The jury's work would have been made much easier if they had been allowed to read Folbigg's entire secret diary. In it, she practically confesses to following in her dad's deadly footsteps.

"Obviously I am my father's daughter," the Australian woman wrote in her diary Oct. 14, 1996, having already killed three of her four children.

"But I think losing my temper and being frustrated and everything has passed. I now just let things happen and go with the flow. An attitude I should of had with all my children, if given the chance, I'll have it with the next one."

Folbigg was pregnant at the time with her fourth child. She would go on to kill her as well.