It was a tragic event.
On Wednesday, July 24, 2013 around 8:00 am, members of the Winnipeg Police Service responded to #3 Coleridge Park Drive in response to a “check the well-being call” after receiving a troubling 911 call.
Upon arrival, Police located the lifeless bodies of Anna (2) & Nicholas (3 months) in the bathtub of the residence. The children were transported to the hospital in critical condition and could not be revived.
The children’s mother, Lisa Gibson (32) was nowhere to be found. Her husband, Brian Gibson had left the home earlier that morning to go to work.
Over twenty (20) Police Units, including K9, Underwater Search & Rescue, Harbour Patrol and members of the Fire Department participated in a desperate search to find the young mother.
On July 27, 2013 at 9:30 am, Police recovered the deceased body of Lisa Gibson from the fast flowing waters of the Red River. An autopsy was conducted but no details were released regarding her cause of death. Nor were any details released regarding her children’s cause of death. (There is little doubt that Lisa and her children all died as a result of drowning.)
After the tragic incident, much was written regarding Lisa Gibson’s fragile emotional state and the fact that she may have suffered from postpartum depression and/or postpartum psychosis.
Media reports and public sentiment appeared to be overwhelmingly sympathetic and supportive towards Gibson who was largely viewed as a victim in the tragedy. That sympathetic attitude seemed to be shared by the Winnipeg Police Service who have yet to include the names of the Gibson children in their Homicide statistics for 2013.
That reluctance troubles me and strikes me as being highly unusual.
The official party line is the “investigation is ongoing,” and as such, the children have not been classified as victim’s of Homicide.
I ask you, does that make any sense?
There are four (4) categories that every death falls into;
We know the Gibson children didn’t die of natural causes, accident or suicide so why the reluctance to call it what it is?
Is the stigma attached to Postpartum Depression & Psychosis so incredibly disturbing to us that we can’t be honest and admit that this form of mental illness is so serious that it could drive a middle class young mother to murder her own defenceless children.
Is the stigma attached to this form of mental illness so disturbing that not even the Police Force wants to acknowledge the truth.
The recent murder of Phillepp Amos caused me to wonder just how long this denial will continue. In reporting the case the Winnipeg Free Press published a story calling Amos’ killing the 19th murder for 2013. Within hours, that number was changed and the murder was reported as the 17th killing in Winnipeg this year.
I wondered about the conversation that prompted that change.
It was an interview I heard on CJOB that really opened my eyes to the magnitude of the stigma attached to this form of mental illness. When asked to comment on the tragedy Premier Greg Selinger said, “Just a horrible situation to see a young family like that decimated by suicide and….loss of children.”
It was the awkward way the words came out of Selinger’s mouth that struck me. The Gibson children weren’t “lost” I thought, they were murdered by a mother suffering from a serious form of mental illness. Why not tell it like it is? Why the need for a politically correct sugar-coating?
If Lisa Gibson had not taken her life I have little doubt she would have been found not criminally responsible for the deaths of her children.
Stigma is a negative stereotype.
The Canadian Mental Health Association tells us the stigma attached to mental health conditions can be so pervasive that people who suspect they might have a mental health condition are unwilling to seek help for fear of what others may think.
In my opinion, the failure of the Premier and the Police Service to acknowledge the Gibson children were murdered is a failure in leadership and a failure to confront the truth. This failure only adds to the stigma of this serious form of mental illness.
Let us engage in the difficult conversation and confront mental health issues like postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.
Let us learn from tragedy and look at the needs of our community vs the resources available to us.
Let us not pretend the Gibson children weren’t murdered.
Let us honour their memory and mourn their loss as victims of Homicide.
There is no shame in that.