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Did postpartum depression lead Lindsay Clancy to kill her children? Experts weigh in on tragic deaths

According to experts, the culprit in such deaths is often a loving mother struggling with mental illness who is motivated by love toward her children
UPDATED JAN 27, 2023
Lindsay Clancy, 32, has been accused of murdering two of her children aged 3 and 5 (Lindsay Clancy/Facebook)
Lindsay Clancy, 32, has been accused of murdering two of her children aged 3 and 5 (Lindsay Clancy/Facebook)

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

DUXBURY, MASSACHUSETTS: The incident involving a Duxbury woman allegedly murdering two of her children, aged 3 and 5, and seriously injuring her 7-month-old infant, before attempting suicide has shocked and saddened the masses. Very little is known about the devasting event that took place on Tuesday, January 24, 2023. Moreover, the neighbors who never noticed anything unusual about the home, said they have no idea "how someone could do that."

The 32-year-old mother Lindsay Clancy jumped out of a two-storeyed window in an alleged suicide attempt and is currently undergoing treatment at a hospital. Meanwhile, experts suspect that the culprit, in such deaths, is often a loving mother struggling with mental illness who is motivated by love and attachment toward her children. Cheryl L Meyer, a psychology professor at Wright State University, who studies mothers who kill their children, recollected an interview with one such woman who had also tried to kill herself. The mother apparently told her that killing her children was rational because they were an extension of herself as if they were a limb. "She couldn’t die without taking her arm. She couldn’t die without taking the children," Meyer said on Wednesday, January 25, as per BostonGlobe.


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Clancy, who was a mother of a 7-month-old at the time, was still in the year-long postpartum period and had previously revealed on her social media that she had suffered from postpartum depression in the past. Taking note of it, professor of psychiatry, obstetrics & gynecology, and population & quantitative health sciences at UMass Chan Medical School, Dr. Nancy Byatt, said that in very rare cases, this depression can advance to psychosis in which a woman’s brain is “hijacked by a really, really serious illness that distorts reality” and provokes actions they would never take if healthy, as per the outlet. 

Dr. Susan Hatters Friedman, a professor of forensic psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, who has researched parents who kill their children, divided the motives into five categories. The most notable among them is the prospect of a mental illness causing the Duxbury killings. However, it is unknown whether Clancy had psychiatric problems.

He emphasized two types of mental illness - “altruistic” and “acutely psychotic.” Friedman said when a parent’s motive is altruistic — “murder out of love,” they may have delusions that their child might encounter a fate worse than death, such as being kidnapped and murdered. Thus, the parent who is planning suicide does not want to leave them in a horrible world as such and believes that killing their children gently is preferable. In the acutely psychotic cases, she said that a parent may think it is God’s command to kill their child or that their child is evil.

According to Meyer, such killings stun people mostly because the mothers were known to be perfect and loving “These mothers are often described as just being quintessential moms. They’re the definition of a good mom,” she said. “And so that’s why it’s really shocking when you hear that they do these things.” She added that such women are not secretly evil and are instead under the grip of a mental illness which causes distorted thinking and leads to action that they think is best for their children. “Why would a woman who loved her children kill them?” Meyer said. “She killed them because she loved them. That’s a hard thing to understand.” Meyer also compares the Duxbury killings with other cases, including that of Susan Smith, who drove her two young children into a lake in 1994, and Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001. Yates was reportedly suffering from postpartum psychosis when she killed her children and was described as a devoted mother.

Byatt, of UMass, put forward that if the Duxbury mother had postpartum psychosis then she had no control over what she was doing. Thus, it is “concerning” that she is charged with murder.

Postpartum depression is a type of mood disorder triggered by hormonal changes after pregnancy, causing immense sadness and despair. It is more common than postpartum psychosis. With treatment from the initial stages of pregnancy and after birth, both can be prevented as per Dr. Judith E. Robinson, a Tufts Medical Center psychiatrist. He added that people suffering from bipolar disorder, or who have had postpartum depression in the past, are at a greater risk. “It’s a very serious condition,” Robinson said. “It’s more than just being sad or crying from time to time.” As per the outlet, psychosis involves delusional or disordered thinking and hallucinations. “It’s a life crisis to have a baby under a year old and to have some other children,” Robinson said. “You are really at high risk of burning out. And if you have your own psychiatric disorder and you don’t have help — your kids could be difficult, just normal difficult. . . . It can drive you to the point of becoming psychotic.”