PODCAST | The Story: Spotlight on filicide - what triggered Lauren Dickason? And how to get help

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This week on The Story, we focus on filicide, after Pretoria mom Lauren Dickason allegedly murdered her three young daughters in New Zealand.
This week on The Story, we focus on filicide, after Pretoria mom Lauren Dickason allegedly murdered her three young daughters in New Zealand.
Graham Dickason
  • Last week, Pretoria mother Lauren Dickason was arrested for allegedly murdering her three daughters, strangling them with cable ties.
  • Lauren and her husband, Graham, emigrated from South Africa with their children at the end of August.
  • She was charged with murder and sent for psychiatric evaluation. Lauren will be appearing in court on 5 October.

Graham Dickason, an orthopaedic surgeon who had recently immigrated to New Zealand with his family, arrived home from work last Thursday to find his daughters' lifeless bodies.

His wife, Lauren, also a doctor, had allegedly strangled their three children with cable ties.

Neighbours were alerted by Graham's frantic cries. Lauren was taken into custody the following day. 

She was sent for psychiatric evaluation and has since been charged with murder and will appear in a New Zealand court on 5 October.

Although few details around the case have been disclosed, this week on The Story, Parent24 editor Elizabeth Mamacos said there were a number of factors that could have triggered Lauren to have committed these murders, including the stress of immigrating with a young family and "a less than ideal" two weeks in isolation.

READ | I have forgiven her, she is a victim too - husband of woman accused of killing their 3 children in NZ

"Reports have also revealed that Lauren, herself a general practitioner, had stopped taking chronic medication for an as-a-yet undisclosed illness, which isn't surprising in this context, as it is well known that immigrants to New Zealand are subjected to medical tests and must pass certain standards to be accepted.

"The family may have felt that her condition and or her reliance on the medication might compromise their application," Mamacos told News24.

Psychologist Gerda Kriel, who specialises in parent-infant psychotherapy, said the phenomenon of filicide - when a parent, mother or father, takes the life of their child or children - needed more attention.

She added the tragedy could occur as a result of poor mental health, as had been speculated in the Dickason case, financial stress or even as revenge towards the other parent.

There's a lot of speculation right now in media about why a mother would do that, and I think it's part of our collective trying to understand, why would a mother take the lives of her children, because we don't think of mothers inherently as people who are murderers.

Kriel said, on average, mothers struggled more with mental health than fathers and because of the associated stigma, women were also less likely to reach out for help.

She added in Lauren's case, even though she was a doctor herself and might have prior medical knowledge, there were many reasons she might not have reached out for help.

"When you have mental health challenges, you will try very hard to convince yourself that you are okay and that you don't need the help … and in their case, they've just immigrated to a new country, they didn't know people there."

Finding support

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, contact your GP or your local clinic or SADAG on 011 234 4837. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 10111 or on 112 from a mobile phone. 

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) has a WhatsApp counselling line that operates from 09:00 to 16:00: 076 882 2775

Gauteng Mental Health Society: 011 984 4038

SA Federation For Mental Health: 011 781 1852

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