An Irish Epidemic: Suicide and Homicide on Antidepressants

This article was initially written for RxISK (independent drug safety website) and published on 17/March/2015.

Medication Madness?
Medication Madness?

 An Irish Epidemic: Suicide and Homicide on Antidepressants

Leonie Fennell – March 2015

Ireland is currently in the midst of an unprecedented suicide/homicide epidemic. Parents are uncharacteristically killing their children; husbands are killing their wives; brothers are killing their brothers; mothers are killing themselves and their babies, all at an alarming rate.

Dr Michael Curtis, Deputy State Pathologist, recently said

“I’m sure it has happened sporadically before, but the frequency and regularity of what we’re seeing (familicides) seems to be a phenomenon of recent years. We’re seeing it on a regular basis…”

So what is being done to stop this terrible phenomenon? Grand psychiatric words such as familicide, infanticide, siblicide and Parricide attempt to bring some clarity to these tragic incidences but provide little explanation. The media frenzy which follow these deaths largely focuses on the ‘mental health’ of the perpetrator, with the financial position of the more mature perpetrator usually offered up as another causal factor. A useless exercise – following a long Irish recession, families without money worries are actually the exception rather than the Rule.

Every conceivable deed or departure from routine, points as proof that he/she was ‘losing the plot’ before the incident occurred. The ‘mental health’ aspect is then widely discussed, usually ending with recommendations that vulnerable people should seek help. But what if the ‘help’ that a vulnerable person received is actually causing these tragic incidents?

Last year Ireland saw a huge number of these family killings. In Sligo, Shane Skeffington (20) killed his little brother Brandon (9) and then himself. This article in the Evening Herald stated that Shane

“had been receiving psychiatric treatment in a mental hospital just days before the tragedy happened”.

Six weeks later, this time in Cork, Jonathan O’Driscoll, aged 21, killed his twin brothers Thomas and Paddy (again aged 9) and then himself. The Irish Independent described him here as a

‘troubled youth on medication for mental health’.

Last month Michael Greaney, aged 53, killed his wife and attempted to kill his daughter. He then killed himself. After a spell in psychiatric services he was deemed as posing ‘no risk’ to his family. A psychiatrist recommended that he be allowed to return home, no doubt with a prescription filled for some psychiatric drug or other. The Herald stated here that friends

“expressed fears that the glass of wine (he had earlier) may have reacted with his medication to drastically alter his mood”.

What seems shocking, to me at least, is that all of these cases involved knifes. Another common denominator in every one of these cases, is that the perpretrators were receiving recent ‘care’ from irish psychiatric services. By its very nature, particularly in Ireland, the ‘care’ provided involved psychiatric drugs. That these drugs double the risk of suicide and violence, can lead to mania, psychosis, worsening depression and akathisia, is almost always overlooked. Experts say that the most dangerous times are when starting, discontinuing or changing dose (up or down).

When Anna Byrne, a woman heavily pregnant with twins, jumped off Howth Head killing herself and her two unborn boys, the fact that her medication had been recently changed wasn’t seen as a mitigating factor. Despite this report in the Irish Independent that Anna was deemed to be “low risk given that she did not indicate that she was suicidal and had made future plans”, her psychiatrist doubled her dose of Sertraline (aka Zoloft and Lustral), a few days before she jumped to her death.

Much discussions followed about mental health in pregnancy, which only seemed to push vulnerable pregnant women towards the same ‘care’ which may effectively have killed Anna and her boys. The teratogenic effect of these drugs didn’t enter the equation and shockingly, Sertraline was described as “a commonly used antidepressant during pregnancy”.

As I write this, Jane Braidwood, a 65 year old mental health professional, was stabbed to death in Dunlaoghaire, Co. Dublin. Her 31 year old son, Fionn, has been arrested by Gardaí in connection with the killing. The Irish Mirror reported that he is understood to have suffered from serious mental health issues. I can only guess, considering Mrs Braidwood’s profession, that her son also had access to medication.

You may ask why I feel I’m such an expert – how can I make such blatant accusations, how can I can be so sure?

In 2009 my son Shane, aged 22, killed another young man and then himself. Despite the media looking for every possible mitigating factor, there weren’t any. He didn’t have any ‘mental illness’, didn’t drink alcohol, didn’t do drugs and was a model student. In fact he was known by his lecturers as ‘An Chroí mor’ (Irish for ‘the big heart’). Shane was sad; he had broken up with his girlfriend some months beforehand and was struggling to move on. I insisted that he should see a doctor and lo and behold, Shane was prescribed Citalopram (aka Celexa and Cipramil). 17 days later my lovely son killed his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend by stabbing him once; he then killed himself, also by stabbing (19 times). Two others were also injured that night.

We struggled to understand how sensible, kind Shane could harm anyone, never mind himself. We read many clearly made-up media articles all pointing the finger; Shane was guilty, guilty, guilty. Journalists mentioned cocaine, alcohol and even other unsolved deaths in relation to my son. One journalist said that Shane was from a working class background trying to ingratiate himself into the middle classes. Another quoted a Catholic priest as saying Shane’s action were ‘pure evil’. From very early on, Irish psychiatry (as a whole) bombarded the media with letters defending their medical model. Well-known psychiatrist Patricia Casey even posthumously diagnosed Shane on national TV, stating she didn’t think it was the Citalopram that caused Shane’s actions, rather she thought it was the ‘mental illness he was suffering from’.

Strange then that a jury of normal people rejected a suicide verdict – a fact which upset Irish psychiatry enormously. They continued to vehemently defend the drugs, even going as far as contradicting the Coroner, questioning his ability to do his job.

Cohesive opinion within Ireland’s psychiatric services on these family killings, seem patchy and fragmented. In 2009 Professor Denis Gill stated that

“Interpretation and speculation would suggest that post-natal depression, reactive depression, mental illness … were factors in some of these incidents”.

Paul Gilligan, chief executive of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services in Dublin, has an opposing view. He recently stated that these murder-suicides are

“not typically associated with mental health difficulties”  & these incidents “require a great deal more premeditation and planning” than suicide alone.

Mr Gilligan overlooked one very important factor. If these men did not suffer from any mental health issues, then any drugs prescribed to them were wrongly prescribed. Therefore, it is surely conceivably that any psychiatric drugs prescribed in error, could have actually caused more harm than good?

I believe with all my heart that the mental health ‘care’ these people received is to blame for these deaths. I am not alone; Jake McGill Lynch was 14 when he was prescribed Prozac to ‘help with his exams’. The following month he took a rifle that he used recreationally (being a member of a nearby gun-club) and shot himself through the head. His parents were never told that Prozac could cause suicidality in young people or that this drug had a black box warning in the United States. Following Jake’s death, his parents Stephanie and John have been campaigning to increase the warnings here, so that no other young boy or girl is driven to their deaths by these drugs. On the issue of informed consent (or lack of), his mother said

“who in their right mind would give this drug to their child knowing that it could cause suicide?”

I believe that these deaths were preventable. I believe that further deaths are also absolutely preventable. I believe it’s not rocket science. But does the Government care enough?  Does the Church care enough? Has Ireland lost its soul?

8 thoughts on “An Irish Epidemic: Suicide and Homicide on Antidepressants”

  1. It is obvious to those of us who have experienced these reactions (aggression, hostility, akathisia, violent thoughts towards ourselves and others etc) while taking SSRI’s that it is undoubtedly the drugs which are to blame in these cases. Depression and anxiety were never linked with violence before the advent of the SSRII age- that’s a fact even psychiatry would find difficult to argue with. The mainstream psychiatric profession has created a conspiracy of silence about these side effects, and instead of warning people about the potential of very serious side effects (such as those already mentioned) they are quite willing to use the so called ‘mental illness’ as the scapegoat- in other words they are literally hanging their own patients out to dry. Not only is this a disturbing facet of psychiatry’s attitude towards those under their ‘care’ but it also goes against what they themselves often claim is immensely harmful to the ‘mentally ill’- ‘stigmatization’. On the one hand, psychiatry says that they are trying to dispel stigma, and they claim that those with mental illness are not inherently violent and dangerous because of it, and that these stereotypes are wrong to perpetrate (particularly in the media), but when it suits them, and when they want to cover up the side effects of the drugs they covet so dearly- they will immediately blame the individual, and they will use the ‘diagnosis’ or ‘mental illness’ as the scapegoat to protect the reputation of the drug. The reason they do this simple. The idea of ‘treating’ mental illnesses with drugs gives psychiatry a (false) sense of legitimacy. It makes them feel like they are ‘real doctors’. It makes them feel that their brand of voodoo is more than just subjective, guess-work. For decades, psychiatry wanted to feel legitimate, drugs (and drug companies) make them feel credible therefore any perceived attack on their precious drugs is an attack on the credibility of psychiatry, and also an attack on the beliefs, and ego of the psychiatrist him ( or her) self. When you invalidate drugs (by drawing attention to myriad of side effects, from violence, to suicide, withdrawal, addiction etc) psychiatrists feel invalidated; they feel slighted, undermined, insecure and offended. They feel so invalidated that they are literally willing to do anything in order to cover up, deny, or obfusticate the facts, about these drugs in any given case, at any given time. In the pursuit of maintaining a sense of legitimacy, psychiatrists are literally allowing these frightening things to happen to people. That, in my opinion, is reprehensible and appalling, but it is also irresponsible. Psychiatry is opening itself to criticism, not just for it’s denials, and its lies, but also for its complicity.


  2. Superb post Leonie. You are back with a bang not a whimper. I guess the suicide/homicide rate seems like an epidemic in Ireland because our population is small and everyone knows somebody who knows somebody connected to those involved. The instances of violence towards self and others are also increasing alarmingly in the UK, most likely related to higher rates of SSRI prescription. I believe that our caring ,family friendly GPs are even more to blame for the epidemic than the likes of Patricia Casey and her merry band of psychiatrists. Our GPs are not fighting for recognition as a medical entity. They have unquestionable status. They are accessible and trusted by most people. Have they lost their ability to assess their patients and consider the conflicts/traumas/life’s knocks behind whatever unhappiness/misery is presented?. Is it all about the money? A ten minute consultation and a fix of Cipramil or some other SSRI is a callous dismissal. It is not a medical decision to prescribe a poison with no knowledge of its efficacy, it is a gamble.
    Truthman that is a brilliant summary of the modus operandi of Psychiatry.


  3. I was put on prozac after the birth of my second son. I must say that I helped me. I carried on taking it and then five years later found myself unexpectedly pregnant. I immediately spoke to my doctor about taking prozac in pregnancy, he checked it out and one week later concluded that “happy mum equals happy baby”. I trusted his expertise. Wrong! My daughter was born 4 weeks early by emergency csection with svt. This recitfied itself once she was boen. It then became apparent that she was not reaching her milestones and an mri confirmed poor myelination and excess pkuid and overlarge spaces in her brain. She is now two and after a lot of physiotherapy she can bear some weight on her feet with assistance. She is significantly developmently delayed. I firmly believe this is due to me taking prozac aa she was developing. I cant turn back the clock, but I would like other pregnant women to be informed. Thank you.


    1. Hi Cara,
      Thanks for commenting – this must be such an emotive issue for you. I hope your daughter will defy all the odds some day and hope she’s a happy and content little girl. I’m so very sorry if this was caused by a drug that your doctor told you was safe. Thank you so much for trying to warn others. Dr Adamo Urato has said that putting pregnant women on antidepressants is “a large scale human experiment” but sadly the average GP remains in the dark. No excuse! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/9632588/Thousands-of-pregnant-women-at-risk-from-antidepressants-doctors-warn.html
      Please let me know if you need anything. I have some contacts that might be useful for you.


  4. are you attending this event? I have tickets but most likely cannot go (which I really would like to do), Leonie some Irish representation cannot do more harm than good!

    You can contact me Leonie by email if you want to.

    52nd Maudsley Debate: More harm than good?
    Wednesday 13 May 2015
    Refreshments 17.30, Debate 18.00, Reception 19.00

    Important: If you are no longer able to attend, please cancel your place by logging into Eventbrite and clicking on My Tickets and View Order, or replying to this email.

    Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, Main Building, 16 De Crespigny Park, London SE5 8AF. Main Reception: +44 (0)20 7848 0002.

    Directions http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/about/findus


    1. Thanks Emer, No I won’t be going to this one, have final exams at the mo. Looks very interesting though. I haven’t seen Sami Timimi before but have seen his work and Peter Gøtzsche in action is a sight to behold. He’s amazing. If you do go, can you let me know how it went? Thanks for the reminder though.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s