Ireland has seen far too many murder-suicides for such a small country – with much discussion and no easy answers. The usual knee-jerk reaction of ‘evil bas**rd’ hasn’t helped to solve these cases or indeed, stop any future cases of familial annihilation. Psychiatry will often blame the ‘underlying mental illness’ of the perpetrator, whether or not there was any evidence pointing to historical psychiatric issues. Suggestions that a prescribed drug or drugs may have played a part are shut down with scorn, despite effects such as suicide, violence and emotional blunting listed in the PILs (Patient Information Leaflets). Indeed, ever since SSRI antidepressants (Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors) were introduced to the masses, murder-suicide cases thought to be drug-induced have consistently surfaced, leaving a global trail of ssri-induced destruction that has lingered for decades – see SSRI-Stories.
From the 1993 case of William Forsyth Sr., who killed his wife and himself 2 weeks after being prescribed fluoxetine (aka Prozac), to Donald Schell, a 60 year-old granddadd who took 2 paroxetine pills (aka Seroxat and Paxil) before fatally shooting his wife, daughter, 9-month-old granddaughter and himself (1998). In the Schell case, paroxetine was found to be 80% responsible and GlaxoSmithKline ordered to pay $6.4m to the family’s surviving relatives – yet still people find it hard to accept that a drug prescribed by a friendly GP could cause such harm.
Nevertheless, similarities include a recent antidepressant prescription (or dosage change), with ‘out of the blue’, ‘out of character’, ‘restlessness’ and ’emotional blunting’ among other common threads. Friends might express their shock and attest to a ‘down to earth’, ‘cheerful and chatty’, ‘all round good guy (or woman)’ or ‘respected member of the community’ whose actions ‘were completely out of character’.
Tragically, the latest case in Margaret River, Australia, seems to fit an SSRI-induced profile. Yesterday, Perth’s version of the Sunday Times published an article titled Margaret River massacre: Depression drug clue to grandfather’s murder of family. Like Donald Schell, Peter Miles, a 61 year-old granddad, had recently started taking an antidepressant(s) – mere weeks before he fatally shot his wife, daughter and four grandchildren. According to the article, close friends of this highly regarded granddad now suspect that the drug he was prescribed may have triggered or worsened ‘homicidal and suicidal thoughts’. One friend said:
Cynda told us Peter had gone onto antidepressants in the last few weeks. I feel for the sake of society that these mind-altering drugs should be exposed as dangerous.
The article also pointed out that while friends of Mr Miles stressed they did not know which type of antidepressant he had been prescribed, they have ‘genuine fears’ it may have been an SSRI – pointing to claims that in rare cases they can contribute to extreme violence, murder and suicide. The article concluded with the following:
For Ms Winfield, the SSRI theory, while not proven, is the most plausible. “Nothing else explains it,” she said. “This was a lovely man whose family was everything to him. I don’t know when the depression set in, but I’m really sad it hit him so hard and I’m sure the medication was a part of it.”
So, before a drug-induced annihilation is dismissed out of hand, be informed, before, BEFORE, BEFORE it happens to someone you love. As many of us will attest to, dead is irreversibly dead and no amount of blame or vindication will bring our loved ones back. One point that is never fully addressed – while medics invariably blame an underlying, undiagnosed, mental-illness – why do so many families insist otherwise and not use this relatively ‘get out of jail free’ card?