Mental illness may have fuelled attack on children
Post-partum depression is being eyed as a possible reason a 35-year-old mother went into a violent rage and stabbed her two young sons and sister in a Winnipeg apartment.
City police said the boys, aged four months and nine years, were in stable condition in hospital Friday.
Attempted murder charges were laid against their mom, who was raising the boys alone after moving to Canada from Somalia.
The boys’ 32-year-old aunt is out of hospital. She was credited for stopping the attack and potentially saving the children’s lives.
Police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said the motive for the attack hasn’t been confirmed but police will receive assistance from other professionals in determining that.
“We have to get to the root of the issue here,” he said.
It’s believed the mom will undergo a psychiatric assessment.
A source said the boys’ dad is in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, which has been stressful for their mom.
Police were called to the fourth-floor suite at 355 Kennedy St., just north of Ellice Avenue, Thursday about 5:30 p.m. The building is owned and operated by Manitoba Housing.
Michalyshen said the suspect’s sister was visiting with her four-month-old daughter.
The attack began when the mom allegedly stabbed her four-month-old son several times and her nine-year-old son once.
She also allegedly tried to harm her infant niece.
Police said the sister disarmed and restrained the suspect during a struggle, despite suffering a stab wound to her midsection.
Michalyshen said the older boy escaped and notified a security guard, who called 911.
Tenant James Mayen encountered the blood-covered nine-year-old, who had a wound to the stomach area, in the lobby.
“He told me he was stabbed by his mom,” said Mayen, who lives across from the family.
Mayen said he often heard the mom screaming at the older boy in English and her native language.
“There’s yelling coming from the apartment all the time,” he said.
The infant son was rushed to hospital in critical condition, while the nine-year-old was taken in unstable condition, Michalyshen said.
A knife was recovered at the scene, he said.
Exposure to this kind of violence against children can have a profound impact on firefighters, paramedics and police, Michalyshen said.
“They will be thinking of this incident in days, weeks, months and years ahead,” he said. “No one is going to forget that.”
Police charged the mom with three counts of attempted murder and single counts of assault with a weapon and assault. She is in custody.
Child and Family Services is involved, Michalyshen said.
More immigrant moms facing mental health issues
Immigrant mothers are up to five times more likely to develop post-partum depression (PPD) than other Canadians, a leading child health researcher says.
Language and cultural differences and social isolation are two reasons for the greater risk, said Nicole Letourneau, a nursing professor and research fellow at the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy at the University of New Brunswick.
“It’s a really vulnerable group,” Letourneau said.
The tragic triple stabbing of two young boys and their aunt, allegedly by the boys’ mom, is bringing to light the issue of PPD because it might be a reason behind the attack.
Letourneau said some cultures stigmatize or don’t recognize depression, resulting in a lack of understanding or missed diagnosis because some mothers don’t seek help or have a peer network to refer them.
One in seven mothers is prone to PPD, she said.
To reduce the risk, public education, improved accessibility to support and better screening are required, and attitudes about depression must be changed, Letourneau said.
Some mothers with PPD also have elements of post-traumatic stress disorder from their experiences in war-torn African countries, said Kiran Pramesh, a community resource and family support worker at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba.
She said newcomers need to be educated about PPD and know it’s OK to seek help in Canada as they make a stressful and challenging adjustment to a new home.
“In many cultures it’s not socially acceptable to go out and speak about private matters,” Pramesh said.
Pramesh said there are many programs and services available to newcomers in Winnipeg — many are within walking distance of the site of Thursday’s attack — but there is room for more.
Some aren’t meeting their potential due to a lack of funding, she said.