The tragedy of Lashanda Armstrong gives us reason to pause and reflect. The human spirit can become so fragile and delicate, that the slightest external assault can create cracks of imperfections that eventually break like shattered glass.
Lashanda Armstrong was a 25 year old mother of four children, ages 10, 5, 2 and 11 months who drove her minivan off a boat ramp and into the Hudson River, killing three of her four children. Her oldest son escaped by climbing out of a car window and swam in forty degree water to shore seeking help. The age of her children is a red flag that raises concern. Her first pregnancy was at age 14 or 15 and her last two children were very close in age. Her last three children had the same father, Jean Pierre who was allegedly cheating on her. When I heard about Lashanda Armstrong, I immediately thought about Andrea Yates, a 36 year old mother of five from Texas who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001. Yates had children very close in age including a newborn. She was allegedly exhibiting psychotic behavior but her husband chose to ignore it, a decision I’m certain he has lived to regret.
Armstrong’s sister purports that she was paranoid one week before the tragedy. She felt that people were “watching her” and that there were missing pages of her diary. She also called family members apologizing for anything she did that offended them. It is quite possible that Armstrong had postpartum depression, a condition that affects between 8 to 20% of pregnant women and the untreated depression escalated to psychosis. The real tragedy is that once the car was submerged into the water, Armstrong realized that she had made a mistake and tried to reverse the car but it was too late according to her 10 year old son.
According to former FBI profiler, Clint Van Zandt, 200 children are killed each year by their mothers for reasons ranging from psychosis to the “Medea Syndrome” based on Greek mythology of a mother killing her children as a means of revenge against her cheating husband.
Can we do something in an attempt to prevent a reoccurrence of the Armstrong tragedy? Yes we can. There is a tool called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale which screens for depression. Had Lashanda Armstrong taken it and received treatment, a tragedy might have been avoided.