Bereaved mum urges mental health care changes

A woman whose husband killed their children before taking his life fears another family could suffer a similar tragedy unless the HSE changes the mental health care system.

Four years to the day since her life was torn apart, Una Butler said she hoped a long-awaited review into her husband’s care, which is nearing completion, recommends sweeping changes.

“I hope it recommends a greater role for spouses, partners or close family members in the care of a person with mental illness, without breaching any doctor-patient confidentiality issues,” she said.

She also wants mandatory risk assessments to be conducted on the families and children of mental health patients. Ms Butler’s husband, John, killed his daughters, Ella, two, and Zoe, six, at the family home in Ballycotton, Co Cork, in November 2010. He died a short time later after dousing his car in petrol and driving it into a ditch.

He had struggled with mental ill health for a decade and had been released from hospital just six weeks earlier.

A year after she buried her husband and two children, Ms Butler contacted the minister with responsibility for mental health, Kathleen Lynch, and was shocked to learn that the HSE had investigated the tragedy without her input. A one-and-a-half page report, published in 2012, found no shortcomings on the part of the HSE.

With help from her solicitor, Ms Butler a sought a “meaningful review”.

In February 2013, following meetings with the Mental Health Commission, a detailed higher review from the HSE was requested.

Ms Butler understood she would be involved but learned in July 2013 that this review was “near completion” again without her input. Ms Carroll wrote to the HSE calling for that review to be scrapped.

In September 2013, another review process which was due to involve Ms Butler was set up, but a conflict of interest emerged in the review structure.

Finally, last February, the HSE confirmed that a clinical review of her husband’s care would be carried out.

She was interviewed as part of the process. The review will be finalised in the coming weeks.


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