Fifteen years ago, Andrea Yates drowned her five children in a bathtub. Six years and two trials later, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity. The following is an honest conversation about the Yates tragedy and maternal mental illness today:
Two years before Andrea Yates committed murder, she was diagnosed with postpartum depression and psychosis following the birth of her fourth child. Only a month after her diagnosis, she attempted suicide for the first time.
After the birth of her fifth child and the death of her father, Andrea's psychosis returned full force. Within months, Andrea's psychiatrist opted to take her off of an antipsychotic prescribed to control her symptoms, citing concerns about side effects.
Two days before Andrea drowned her children, her husband brought her back to the hospital. The doctor did not prescribe Andrea anything, nor was she admitted to the hospital.
On June 20, 2001, after Andrea's husband left the house, she filled the family bathtub, drowned the five children one by one, and called the police immediately after.
Andrea's explanation for why she murdered her children was that she believed they would be tortured by Satan if she didn't kill them. Delusions, hallucinations, and strange beliefs are all symptoms of postpartum psychosis.
Andrea's husband stood by his wife through her trials. He would later tell the press his family was let down by the mental health system.
Currently, Andrea is living in a psychiatric hospital. She no longer exhibits symptoms of psychoses and spends her time raising money for her children's memorial funds (through anonymous craft sales) and watching videos of her family in happier days.
About 20% of mothers suffer from some form of mental illness.
And while Andrea’s story, and this statistic, are chilling, moms are “the most selfless people on the planet.” Sometimes it’s OK to be selfish and put your mental health first, for the good of yourself, and for the good of your children.
If you or someone you love is suffering from maternal mental illness, please see a list of resources here. If you are in an immediate crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
To read more about the Yates Children Memorial Fund, click here.