As Asian Mother is awaiting sentence for killing her three-year-old – how many other Asian women are in a similar psychological predicament?
Raj Persaud FRCPsych, Consultant Psychiatrist in Private Practice in Harley Street.
34 year old mother Rosdeep Adekoya’s sentencing has been deferred until August 25th, after she admitted killing her three year old son Mikaeel Kular. When the toddler first went missing, the search involved multiple emergency services and gained national attention.
Adekoya first put up a front that the child had gone missing, telling officers he’d got out of their home. Yet he had died because of repeated assaults, as she became frustrated that he was repeatedly sick after a meal out. She put his body in a suitcase, which she then dumped 20 miles away from her home in Edinburgh.
Adekoya’s internet history was presented in court, revealing searches including “I find it hard to love my son”, “I love all of my children except one”, “Why am I so aggressive with my son”, and “Get rid of bruises”.
This kind of background information would suggest to some psychiatrists that in cases like this, the final fatal assaults came in the context of mounting frustration and despair.
This terrible case might highlight that it’s possible that Asian mothers in particular suffer several key vulnerabilities, which may mean that there could be other women, perhaps quite a few, in the UK today suffering from the same kind of background strains which could lead up to this kind of tragedy.
For example, Post-Natal Depression may start after the birth of a child, and last many years, especially if untreated and unrecognised, which it is my experience as a clinician, is more likely to be the case with Asian mothers.
The first issue is that in Asian culture around the world, and even in the UK, there is a strong taboo surrounding strong emotional turmoil, psychological problems, mental illness and seeing psychiatric help. Even to the extent of going to your GP to discuss this kind of predicament. Yet if a mother is able to express her frustrations and despair, it’s possible, if not even likely, that tragedies of this kind can be averted.
In my clinical practice I have personally encountered with Asians in particular, that because of the fear of mental illness, and the possibility of genetic inheritance, families keep incredibly quiet about psychological problems in their midst. This is not just because of personal shame, but also for fear of attracting a reputation, which means the marriage prospects of the next generation are ruined.
Another vulnerability that Asian women might suffer from in particular, related to this situation is that the maternal instinct is not something that can be so readily questioned in Asian culture. It’s assumed that all women, all the time, are always up beat and positive about child care.
As a mum, you are meant to be delighted following the birth of a child – so the idea that it’s linked with a particularly high chance of getting clinical depression (which is a fact) – would be roundly rejected by many Asians.
This also means that my experience as a psychiatrist is that Asian women may receive less support from their male partners when it comes to childcare than other cultures in the UK, because looking after children may be more seen as ‘women’s work’ by Asian men.
Yet the evidence is that more women across the world are opting to remain childless, and that in every culture around the planet and through history, when women are able to afford childcare, they tend to make use of it.
It’s also possible that within traditional Asian culture back in India, or other parts of the East, it was traditional in a village environment for women of all ages to club together more to help with child care. Looking after children was more of a group activity – whilst now in the UK we are more isolated from each other, and the burden of child care tends to fall on the shoulders of just one woman, and this may simply be too much for many to cope with.
Many women can, and do, display an incredibly strong maternal instinct, but this can also only happen if they are supported and cared for themselves. It’s up to the community working with the NHS to step up to the plate in order to try and prevent future tragedies such as this one.