By now we have all heard the disturbing story of Ebony Wilkerson, the pregnant mother who intentionally drove herself and her three children aged 10, 9, and 3, into the Atlantic Ocean last week.

"I am keeping us all safe"

According to published statements from the children, Wilkerson was intentionally attempting to commit suicide while killing her children in the process. During the commission of this unspeakable act, she fought off first responders and good samaritans attempting to rescue the family.

When confronted with the horrors of human behavior, as a licensed psychotherapist my first instinct is to search for understanding by looking at the system around the offender. While, like you, I was in shock and awe watching the dramatic video of the event, my immediate instinct was not to vilify, but to understand.

Having never met this woman, my opinions are solely based on published reports. This mother confided in family members of marital discord and sought refuge with her sister in Florida. Also according to family members, her behavior was odd, she reported hearing demons, fiercely read the bible, often quoted scripture, and communicated fears that her husband was in pursuit to harm her. When stopped by authorities after receiving calls from a concerned family member, Wilkerson did not display behaviors that warranted an involuntary mental health evaluation afforded by Florida law.

It is now obvious that Wilkerson is emotionally disturbed with the extent of any diagnosable mental illness yet to be determined. As details of this case continue to unfold, we will inevitably form opinions of this mother who attempted an unthinkable act. While mental illness does not excuse criminality, I hope this event will highlight the importance of recognizing the signs of emotional distress in ourselves and others.

Consider the following Signs of Domestic Violence:

- Low self esteem
- Depressed mood
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Suicidal ideation and/or attempts

Now notice the similar Symptoms of Depression:

- Difficulty making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Insomnia
- Persistent sadness
- Suicidal ideation and/or attempts

Tragedy prevention begins when the stigma of seeking professional assessment and assistance for emotional difficulties is dismantled. It is time to drop the mask and begin the healing process for ourselves, our community, and our children.

If you believe yourself or a friend/family member is experiencing emotional difficulty, I encourage you to visit Learn more about our services designed to help clients learn and implement techniques designed to reduce the influence of depression, anxiety, and/or panic on our lives.

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