THE striking similarity between the two mothers who killed their children in the past one week was that both suffered from depression. One is dead, while the other is recuperating from a suicide attempt and would now spend time at Hospital Bahagia in Tanjung Rambutan for a mental evaluation.
Both women were medically treated for their conditions but what they did has raised questions -- were they walking time-bombs? Was there anyway of knowing when they would "explode"?
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Health Psychology Unit Associate Professor Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon simply said: "There was no way of knowing".
He explained that human emotions and behaviours are not as clear-cut as what society wanted it to be.
"It is not a black and white situation. Every depressed person has his own individual reasons and beliefs. There is no blanket reason. It basically individualistic," he said.
In the case of Vithasini Maniam, 30, who had killed her daughters S. Rashmeka, 4, and S. Neeharika Lax mi, 1, recently, Dr Ng said she could be depressed to the point of not seeing anything positive in life any more, and felt hopeless.
"She had stated in her letter that she felt there was no hope in the future for her children and herself and she truly believed it.
"It is also not surprising to note that since Vithasini had attempted suicide before, the risk of suicide increases with each attempt," he said.
Dr Ng explained that depression (in layman's term), is a state of mind that is very tired with the individual experiencing feelings of hopelessness
"People with depression find it an effort to even smile. They always feel like giving up.
"They tend to look at things from one perspective only and in Vitashini's case, she found the world to be negative and felt that death was a form of escapism," he said.
Dr Ng, who has encountered patients with feelings of wanting to kill their children, said some mothers who love their children so much, tend to feel it's right to protect their children even if it involved taking their lives.
"Though it is not the right thing to do legally, but due to their state of mind, they feel it is the right solution.
"One way to help people like Vithasini is to show support. The sufferers feel they lack the support of their family and society. They feel there is no one to turn to"" he said.
Listening attentively and being a friend are simple things Dr Ng advised people to do when dealing with people with psychological problems. "Medication is not the only solution. It only serves to increase the amount of neuro-chemicals in the brain and helps reduce depression.
"The condition of the sufferers, however, do not change significantly. Their thoughts do not change.
"They are still very negative. There are phases with those suffering from schizophrenia, anxiety or bipolar. It is not consistent.
"Therefore, family members should help them when they are well, by being supportive.
"A person when unwell does not respond well to support as he is in a different state of mind," said Dr Ng.
Malaysian Mental Health president Datin Dr Ang Kim Teng said it was alarming to note the spate of suicides and suicide-cum-murder cases of late. "Experts from the psychological fraternity, sociologists, the Health Ministry, Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and non-governmental organisations should look into this matter.
She added that besides awareness, support is one of the key factors to help those suffering from depression and other psychological illness.