Whilst driving home from seeing a customer today I heard on the radio that police have found the body of a man and child in the sand dunes of Pottsville Beach. The coroner hasn’t formally identified the bodies so it is too early to say that it is Greg Hutchings and his four-year-old daughter, Eeva Dorendahl who have been missing for 17 days. My guess is, it’s them.
The radio presenter who was on at the time followed up the news story will some comments of his own. Without actually saying it; he assume the same as I have – and that I’m sure everyone has assumed – this is a case of murder/suicide, and to that end he went on to call this father something along the lines of “selfish and heartless.” I had to call him.
It was dumb of me. I’m not going to say “too soon” but it was too soon. Too soon to go in with the angle that I was going in with. Too soon to have any sympathy for the father. Too soon to wonder if this case is so cut and dry. Too soon to bring in any hypothetical reasoning; especially any that would justify the killing of one’s child. As I wrote in my article The Ten Commandments of Parenting which was republished on iVillage, you need to protect your child no matter what. And sadly, because this radio station is infamous for cutting of callers rather than listening until the end, I am going to be branded a sympathiser to a killer, when really I wanted to portray myself as a sympathiser to someone who has taken their own life.
But let me say this again; there is NO justification for killing your child. Ever.
The presenter was joined by another former radio presenter who used to be on this station before leaving to join their number one rival, only to be let go at the end of 2013. Now he’s back on his old station popping up to occasionally make comments on other radio presenter’s shows. I used to speak to the latter presenter all the time on the station he recently left. On one occasion I made a suggestion about giving defect notices instead of fines to people not using Bluetooth kits who were caught holding onto their mobile phones while driving. He suggested to his listeners that it was possibly the best well thought out idea anyone had called up and given him and if anyone refuted the idea they should call in and talk to him. No one did. I’m only adding this, not to talk myself up, but to show that;
- I have well thought out ideas that are aimed at making our community a better place for our kids
- I’m not one of those kooks who ring up radio stations without actually thinking about what I am saying
Anyway, they continued talking about this and, justifiably so, the radio presenters attacked anyone who might suggest that this father is anything but a “selfish and heartless killer.” Hang on a second. I think they are justified in attacking me? Yes. Because the public, right now can not see this father as anything but what he has been labelled. So in the best interest of my own well being, I am joining in with the critical mass and labelling Mr Hutchings a selfless and heartless killer too. It is also justified by a comment that one of these presenters made; the job of this father was to protect his child.
Let me say that again; the job of this father was to protect his child.
But the conversation needs to be opened up. How can we prevent this? It is all well and good us condemning his actions after the event, but are we, as a society doing enough to help the father? The presenters went on to discuss that this father was obviously not the sole custodian of this child as he had a mental disorder. But I ask the question; did he? Did he really have a mental disorder?
Postnatal Depression (PND), also known as Postpartum Depression (PPD) – but I have also called it PND so that is what I will call it – is classified as a clinical depression. Clinical depressions come under the wider umbrella of mental disorders, so by definition PND is a mental disorder. For a person (either a man or woman) to be diagnosed as suffering from PND there needs to be two factors involved; the first being that the person recently had a child, and that the person is clinically depressed. If you are clinically depressed and you haven’t recently had a child, you cannot suffer from PND. It is that simple.
I have done a little research and am yet to find a name or term for a mental disorder associated solely with a relationship breaking down and specifically where a child or children are involved with post separation discussions, family law court cases, mediation or other intervention, but I am sure there would be one. I am sure that there must be some people who are otherwise “normal” who find themselves suffering some sort of mental breakdown once the relationship is over, and more specifically if the child or children have been taken away from them, or at the very least they have been given a very reduced custody or even supervised visitation rights.
I’m not a doctor (note the lack of the PhD after my name?) but, without doing vast amounts of studies (if I had the time and money I would) I could safely say that people who suffer from PND have a high susceptibility or genetic predisposition for being diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder which would rear its ugly head once a catalyst is presented to them. By its very nature, the harsh reality of a change in lifestyle, a baby who doesn’t “sleep like a baby” or that has some other problem that is upsetting its parent is exactly the sort of catalyst that could make a person susceptible to PND.
And if we were to extend that a little further I don’t think I would be laughed at by the psychology profession by suggesting that, much in the same way that I described a few suggested catalysts for PND above, I think that a separation and the loss of custodian rights for either a mother or a father could bring on psychosis, depression or any other type of mental disorder.
I’m not going to suggest that just because everything is going fine, that life is completely rosy for an individual that their high susceptibility or genetic predisposition for being diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder couldn’t happen one day. Mental illness, just like any health issue can appear without warning. I don’t need to go into the causes of “surprise” mental disorders; history of drug use, delayed post traumatic stress, genetics – you can read about that yourself – but mental disorders are a health issue just as much as cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
So my question has to be asked again; are we doing enough to help fathers like Greg Hutchings?
I don’t think we are.
It was reported back on the 13th January only two days after their disappearance that Inspector Darren Steel of the Tweed Police did not believe Mr Hutchings had posed any threats of harm to his daughter. It is an interesting comment to make seeing that is was posed to me today that the reason Greg Hutchings didn’t have sole custody or greater custodian rights is that the “courts got it right,” and “they (the Family Courts) read the writing on the wall when they decided to exclude this father from his family.” Only thing is, they didn’t. The courts didn’t exclude him from his family. In case you weren’t paying attention, he was enjoying his time with his daughter during his allotted custody time.
It has been all over the media that the daughter was a pawn in the middle of a bitter custody dispute. I am deeply saddened by that. It doesn’t matter what happens between the parents, the child or children should never get drawn into the battles.
Earlier in his show the radio presenter took a call from a lovely old lady who basically said what everyone was thinking. And she was only reiterating what the presenter himself said. During that call the caller suggested that “if that father felt that he couldn’t live without his daughter, why couldn’t he just take his own life?” That is almost a direct quote. I am not kidding you. And it was agreed by the presenter.
So that’s where this whole custody debate has gotten too, hey? Let’s give the custody to the mother and then let the father go off and kill himself. If a father can’t live without his kids, well let’s forget about his pain and suffering. Fathers, for those who are new to the whole parenting thing, are the ones with the penis who are less connected to their children because they didn’t give birth to them. They are the ones who don’t deserve to get custody during a “bitter custody battle” because they didn’t carry the baby for nine months. They are the ones who need to be seen as the evil person in a relationship breakdown because they didn’t breastfeed at 2am.
Now as I mentioned earlier, I threw in a hypothetical when I called into the station. You can’t hear my question or any of my call because only those who agree with the broadcaster or presenter can be heard in their full replay of today’s show that can be downloaded or listened to online. Even though the link says “Listen to the Full Show of (Insert program name) with (Insert presenter’s name) here” you won’t hear my call. So I will write what I was trying to say before they pulled the plug on me.
My hypothetical question;
Let’s take the child out of the this story and we potentially have a man bullied into committing suicide. If THIS was the news story we would have the public turning on this woman (his estranged wife) as the belligerent. How was he bullied? Well the only way to answer that is to now bring the child back into the equation.
We don’t know the full story, but I hope that it is brought to light. We don’t know if this father ever abused his daughter, but my guess is, if he had ANY custody without it being a supervised visit as was the case, then the suggestion that he was a bad father cannot be taken into consideration. From another news article I read that the mother had taken the daughter out of the country last year without the father. There are many news reports on the internet which include the line “Eeva had been the subject of a custody battle and was known to be confused about who her real father was.”
Also, In 2011 Eeva featured in the official video for a ‘psychedelic tribal gathering’ her mother had taken her to in rural Hungary. You can watch that here. And by the looks of that, if the news story was that the mother was trying to take her child to a festival like this, one that looks like it is full of drugs and free love, and the father was trying to stop this, well I wonder how the public would respond to that? Bad mother, good father?
Sheri Hutchings, sister of Greg Hutchings had told the media a few days after her brother and niece went missing that she believed Mr Hutchings had run off with his daughter after discovering her Finnish passport, because he feared he would lose any custody.
Still, none of this justifies killing your child. You should not take the life of your child. And equally, you should not take your own life. There are organisations that you can reach out to that might be able to help you. Help you with your mental health. Help you with the sadness at the loss of your relationship. Help you with not being taken to the cleaners during a divorce. And help you when you are in need of advice as to keeping some sort of access to your child.
There is so much more I could write about this subject. I know of two fathers who are friends of my wife and both of these men have lost all access to their children through no fault of their own. One case I know the details about and was saddened to hear that the mother claimed that her estranged husband abused the children even though he has an older daughter from a previous relationship and she is the epitome of a well balanced child. A child, I might add, who spends just as much time with her father as she does her mother in what seems to me like the most perfect arrangement after a separation.
But I am going to leave this here for now until more details of this particular case are known.
And I will finish off with this. I do not support what the father did if in fact he did kill his child (which is highly likely) and then kill himself, but I feel that there is definitely blood on the hands of other parties privy to this. Those parties might not have held the knife, gun or whatever item was used in the killings, but I am reminded of a story that I heard years ago. A military drummer during the American Civil War was captured and was going to be executed as a prisoner of war. He told his capturers that he did not have a gun, let alone have any other means of killing anyone. He was reminded that he played the drums to rally his men into battle. He was just as much responsible for the death of his enemy as those who held and fired any weapon.
Just remember that next time you feel like being a bully. I believe that bullying is just as much a part of this murder/suicide as any of those infamous suicides in recent years by young teen girls in Australia, Canada and the US. if you are going through a separation, make sure the best interest of the children is taken into consideration. And whatever your arrangements are, make sure they are fair for both parents.
In the US, for support on suicide matters call the National Suicide Prevention Help Line on 1-800-273-8255 or go to http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
In the UK, please contact The Samaritans at 08457 90 90 90 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.