First up, it appears I accidentally didn’t hit send on last night’s post. So tonight there will be two posts.
Over the last few days I have been following the story of Jillian and London McCabe. If you haven’t heard the story in the news, read THIS.
Being a member of a lot of autism communities, I have seen so much hatred for this mother. Comments full of people wanting to physically torture this woman slowly to death – and being proud of their view. There is also outright abuse at anyone who tries to offer any alternative point of view – multiple comments saying that anyone who doesn’t want to see this woman tortured or put to death and who have any sympathy at all are bad parents who will hurt their own children and should have them removed.
It saddens me. First up, it saddens me to see so many people full of blood lust. Yes I agree that people who willfully commit a crime should be punished, and (even though others may judge me for it) I believe there are even cases that warrant a death penalty (only in cases of repeat offenders who commit heinous crimes like genocide, mass torture, serial killers, paedophiles AND where the person freely, proudly admits what they have done with no coercion at all), but not all killers are murderers. That is why our laws recognise things like self defense and have lesser charges like manslaughter. It’s also why the legal system allows pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Of course there are a lot of people who abuse this! And that too is sad. While I have no actual statistics, probably 90% or more of those who plead insanity were not truly “insane” (ie psychotic with no control over their actions) at the time of their crime. But some people truly are.
Was Jillian McCabe insane? I honestly don’t know. It’s not my job to assess her – she will have multiple forensic mental health professionals to assess that. But I do know that without knowing whether she was sane or insane at the time of throwing that poor little boy to his death, no one has the right to judge her.
Was she insane? the evidence sure points to it. She shared with many people she was hearing voices before the tragedy. She repeatedly went to hospital asking for help. She even had an appointment with her psychiatrist booked to increase her meds – not something that is done unless some needs help for their mental illness.
I find the comments that so many people have made that showing sympathy for this woman means a person would harm their own kids, that somehow having sympathy for a person means that you are like them. I beg to differ. I have sympathy for a lot of people. I understand why so many people who were abused as children turn to alcohol and drugs to deal with the pain. But does that mean I would? No! I have also seen the damage alcoholism and drug addiction does to people’s lives and find addictions repugnant. But I can understand why people do it and feel sorry for them and want to help them.
The same thing with people who, in the throes of genuine psychoses, have hurt their children. Hurting a child is a terrible thing. And any child’s death is a a huge tragedy. But those who are genuinely psychotic have not hurt their child on purpose – and when they are over their psychotic episode, they then have to live with what they have done. I have worked with people who have hurt their own children or hurt other people’s children because of their mental illness. And while my first thought is to want to recoil and condemn, I then realise that they are victims too – victims of an insidious illness that has made them do something terrible that they would never choose to do.
I have never had the urge to hurt my children (something I thank God that I have never suffered from), but I know what it’s like to have something in me that wants me to hurt myself. At the lowest point in my life, I did have a voice that tormented me, telling me how terrible I was and telling me to hurt myself in all sorts of terrible ways. There were times when I could not ignore it and did hurt myself. While the urge to hurt one’s self and hurt another person are two separate things and the majority of people who hurt themselves would never, ever hurt someone else, both urges come from a similar “brokenness” inside the brain. When severe enough, the person just “breaks” and has no ability to stop it.
I know when I was at my most depressed and self harmed and attempted suicide, there were all too many people who were condemning – sadly the so called “professionals” I was seeing at the time were the most condemning. Idiots who would just go on about about you have to learn self control etc. But the reality is, when you are that unwell, you can no more ignore the voice in your head telling you to kill yourself, than a cancer sufferer can control the replication of cancer cells. You can use every conscious thought in your head to try to fight it, but at the end of the day, it is a biological illness which even the strongest of people cannot control.
I’m not saying every person who self harms or attempts suicide has no control – any more than I am saying everyone who kills their child has no control. In fact most people do have control over whether they harm themselves or others, but when someone is unwell enough, when they are hearing voices telling them to do something, it’s not so controllable.
It doesn’t make things ok. A precious young boy’s life has been lost. But spewing hatred against his mother won’t bring him back either.
As I said above, I don’t know for sure if Jillian McCabe was psychotic when she did what she did, but if she was, this is not an autism issue, it has nothing to do with ableism or the abuse of autistic children. If she truly was psychotic as the evidence points towards, this is a mental health issue. It is about the terrible failings of the mental health system and the blood that neglectful professionals have on their hands.
It’s painfully clear that this woman and her family begged for help for her mental illness. The media stories that go for detail rather than sensationalism have repeatedly mentioned how she tried to be admitted to hospital repeatedly and was turned away. While some people have condemned her family with comments like “if they knew how unwell she was, why did they leave her alone with London” but the reality is, families are not professionals – they would have trusted the professionals to say something if she was considered a danger to her child. The family are just another victim of this terrible tragedy.
Hundreds of people die every year in Australia after being callously turned away from hospitals when they have presented begging for help. Thousands more attempt suicide after being turned away begging for help, and are lucky enough to survive – many are left with permanent damage from their suicide attempts – the “lucky” ones only have emotional damage to live with. And it’s not just the individual it damages, but the families who are left to pick up the pieces. Some of these people do get lucky and finally get the help they need afterwards – others just are turned away again and again until eventually they are successful in killing themselves.
It is a big part of why I went into mental health in the first place. To help those who fall through the cracks. So that no one who was truly a danger to themselves or others would be turned away from help. I know any difference I make will be small but it is like the starfish story (I will post that up soon). I may not be able to save everyone, I may not even save many, but even if I save the life of one person then I have achieved my goal.
And so I write this post knowing full well I may get haters. But I don’t care. I have seen the hatred spewed towards other posters who choose not to be full of hatred too. But I would rather be hated for standing up for what I believe than to be loved for compromising my values.
And I know I am not alone in some of my thoughts in this issue. I have met one lovely lady on facebook who was being bullied for her beliefs and she has now added me as a friend. And I know of others who feel the same way, but are just too scared to speak up for fear of becoming targets too. Well my friends, I speak up for you. Compassion and forgiveness beats hatred any day.
I hope whatever the full truth of Jillian McCabe’s actions come to light. I hope that the court she will go before will make the right decision, whatever that may be. And I hope little London’s family one day find peace after this terrible tragedy. My prayers are with this family and I also pray that the mental health system takes note of what has happened and makes changes so that there is never a repeat of this terrible tragedy.