A psychologist explains what causes a father to snap ... and gives warning signs to look out for.
Over the weekend, a man killed his wife and their three children before fatally shooting himself in a northwest Maryland home. His wife had blogged about how stressed her husband had been lately, and the family reportedly had financial problems.
Back in January, an unemployed California father, Ervin Lupoe, killed his wife and five children after both parents had lost their jobs. A few days later, Mark Meeks shot and killed his wife and their two children, then shot himself.
Momlogic spoke with psychologist Dr. Michelle Golland to find out how this can happen. She gave us warning signs every mom should know.
What causes a father to snap and commit familicide?
Dr. Michelle Golland: Most familicides where a parent kills themselves, children and spouse are committed by men. In the case of the recent tragedies in California and Ohio, it does appear that the loss of a job had been the tipping point in these cases. This can be a response in the wake of financial hardships in a family, particularly by men, because the shame and fear they have in regards to not being able to provide monetarily for the family. It may be causing stress in the marriage that can contribute to the men feeling even more out of control in their lives. It appears that men who also kill the children did not want to "leave" them behind to experience the emotional pain of having lost a parent, or they believe the shame that either the death of the parent or the shame of not having their needs met contributes to the irrational belief that it is "better" if they all die together.
Does this have to do with the "breadwinner mentality"?
Dr. Michelle Golland: Yes, it does have to do with the real or imagined fear of not being able to provide food and shelter for their family. They feel very ashamed and out of control with little coping skills to handle the stress they are experiencing.
Will we see more familicide with the economic recession?
Dr. Michelle Golland: Yes, I am very concerned we may see more of this in the future. Part of the problem is the attention given to these stories by the media. It can help trigger more of these types of events because these people see it as an "option" now. It is important that employers have steps in place to assist families who are being terminated due to the economy. Phone numbers of counseling centers should be given out as well as some information on coping with stress and where to receive financial assistance from government agencies in their local area.
Are there any warning signs that a husband or father is about to snap?
Dr. Michelle Golland: The warning signs are similar to that of suicide except that the big precursor is loss of a job:
*Pessimism, hopelessness, desperation, anxiety, withdrawal and sleep problems.
*Increased alcohol or drug use.
*Buying of a weapon. If you own a weapon and a job loss has occurred, I recommend it be removed from the home.
*Impulsiveness and taking risks
*Giving things away
If you are seeing these or any warning signs and there has been a major negative change in your financial situation, take the signs seriously. Ask your partner questions about what is going on with him. See if you can become a "team" regarding the financial crisis. Come up with alternatives given your particular situation that will decrease familial pressure around money. Lastly, seek professional help. There are many low-cost counseling centers that can help you and your family through this challenging economic time.
|Dr. Michelle Golland is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles with a focus on issues relating to couples, individuals, and families. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband, son and daughter.|