Fort Worth, Texas,
09:54 AM

The warning signs a mom may hurt her child

A mom's mental health may lead to harm for her children

Police in Benbrook, Texas, say they have "probable cause" to believe that Sofya Tsygankova killed her two little girls, ages 5 and 1, and then stabbed herself. 

Unfortunately, stories of mothers harming their children have become far too prevalent in recent years. But there are often times hints a mom may abuse her child.

Joy Crabtree, Psy.D, a licensed psychologist for the Urgent Care and Pediatric Specialties Clinic in Southlake, said there are sometimes warning signs that a mom’s mental health is unstable or depression may be a concern including increased irritability, loss of patience, quick mood changes, excessive energy or extreme fatigue, and a sense of feeling hopeless or overwhelmed.

More serious warning signs, possibly of psychosis, include trouble distinguishing what is and isn’t real, a sense of extreme suspicion or paranoia, and even hearing voices or seeing things other people don’t see.

At times when psychosis or even an extreme depression is present, a woman can have irrational ideas about her baby — such as that the baby is possessed or that she has to hurt herself or her child. This condition can be extremely serious and disabling, and new mothers who are experiencing these symptoms need medical attention right away.

Women who have other psychiatric illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, major depression or schizoaffective disorder, may be at greater risk of developing postpartum mood symptoms. Any significant changes in behavior or bizarre beliefs require immediate medical attention and, often, a brief hospitalization. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, don’t delay getting medical attention.

“The person who is in the midst of some type of mental health issue likely doesn’t know what is or isn’t reasonable,” Crabtree said. “Family members, friends, teachers, or other professionals in contact with parents need to step in if they feel a person needs help. A child should not be left alone with a parent in crisis. The care of the child then depends on other adults.”

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