I read an article today about it being 15 years since Andrea Yates sadly and terribly took the lives of her children in her home in Texas. One of my favorite things to do in reviewing articles is reading the comments section. You can quickly learn who is familiar with mental illness, who doesn’t believe it happens, who mom shames, victim blames, is devastated, is angry – the list goes on.
I find it intriguing that when this happened, society immediately crucified her. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely understand this knee jerk reaction to this. I had an even worse reaction to it when I heard about it 15 years ago (I was only 10). It baffled me that a mother could do that to her children. 15 years later, I realize how daft my reaction was initially.
Andrea Yates was mentally ill. Against the will of her doctor’s who indicated she should not have any more children, she continued to do so at the (seeming) request of her husband Rusty Yates. She was not supposed to be alone with the children. The day she killed them, she was alone with her children for a short window of time. A short, yet long enough time for her to kill all of her children. If you’ve ever been around multiple children, you know how stressful those situations can be even in the right state of mind. Multiple that considerably when you’re dealing with a psychosis.
Andrea thought she was doing the right thing protecting them from Demons. In news interviews after, Rusty indicated that Andrea was “weak” and that is why “demons” took hold of her and she did this. His response is indicative that although he was also seemingly informed about her condition, he didn’t understand or even really believe it. He went against doctor’s orders on many occasions and frankly, he put his children and his wife at risk in his decisions. A lot of people blame him for this – that he had a hand in it because he was educated about treatment and refused to go along with it. Many people feel that he needs to be charged with child endangerment or neglect. Other people take a more understanding approach, indicating that he was the victim (he is ONE of the victims), he had nothing to do with it, “how sad for Rusty who lost his children.”
You made read the above as me blaming Rusty. I am of the opinion that this was a preventable occurrence and it is both tragic and unfortunate that it took this turn. It is apparent though that she was enough of a risk and people saw this coming close enough that they did warned against it. I think Randy possibly was trying to integrate Andrea into life to build her confidence. I think in a way maybe he was coming from a good place in attempting to do so. I don’t pretend to know him or his motives, but he went against medical advice on several occasions and Andrea saw several different doctors, as though they were shopping for an answer they never seemed to receive. Andrea needed help and she didn’t get the help she needed. That fact cannot be argued.
This type of situation also reminds me that when a mother hurts her child, our immediate reaction is to condemn her. It’s unfathomable to all of us. Mothers are supposed to be kind, nurturing, empathetic and the one person we’re able to trust more than anything. When a father kills his child, we’re angry and outraged, but women really do get the brunt because of their “role” in the child’s life. It’s just something to ponder and definitely something I find intriguing from a social standpoint in this case and in other cases.
This case also reminds me about my own Postpartum Depression and the PTSD I had as a result of Elle’s birth. I’ve never talked about it before and it was absolutely not to this level, not even remotely close, but I was so upset and so confused for several months. I moved through the motions and day to day feeling like I was numb to everything. There were highs and there were lows and I was upfront with my husband that if he saw me acting strangely at all, to point it out so I could try and do something. He never said anything, but I am historically such a private person and so guarded, I am not sure that he would’ve really seen it truly until it got really bad. I don’t even know how to explain it. Living in it, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. Reflecting on it a year later, I realized how I felt in that situation and that it was absolutely untreated PPD that fortunately, did not get worse and was manageable (if you can really ever call it that).
I am thankful that on social media these days it is becoming less and less taboo to talk about PPD. I am thankful that these issues are being brought to light and that hopefully people are better able to really figure out signs and symptoms to help prevent these major tragedies, but also to help those who are suffering. We as a society need to seek to understand more effectively in situations like this. We need to educate. We need to realize that this can happen to anyone and we need to acknowledge that it cannot be swept under the rug and that we are not always equipped do deal with these things alone. It needs to be evident that we can seek help free of judgment to encourage the best possible outcomes for everyone involved.
Andrea Yates lives her life in a mental hospital now under constant suicide watch. Her doctors have indicated in articles that she is deeply remorseful, sad and disturbed by what she did. She is 51 years old now. She watches home videos of her kids on repeat. She has to live every single day with a decision she made.
Recent article with Rusty Yates can be found here.
Time’s new article about Andrea Yates – here.
Time’s 2002 article about Andrea Yates – here.