Deirdre Morley's Mask is One Many Mothers Have Worn
*Trigger warning. Please scroll down for details of organisations that can help and as always my DMs are open for any mum who needs help.
When I look at pictures of Deirdre Morley with her kids, I see smiling, happy children, I see a smiling happy mum who loved her kids. And so did the rest of the world.
What none of us would have seen is the woman who believed she was an unworthy mother, a mother who had damaged her children, a mother who was worthless. A mother who felt guilt, shame and as though she didn’t measure up. A mother, who was suffering so badly with a mental disorder that on 24th January 2020, she suffocated her three children, Darragh 9, Conor 7 and Carla 3 to death and then attempted to take her own life.
Despite Deirdre’s on and off issues with dark moments and mental health over the years, no one saw this coming; not her closest family members, not her husband Andrew and not those involved in her care. In fact, people believed she was doing better in the weeks prior to January 24th.
But what was going on in her head was completely at odds with her outer self. I know this because I too wore that mask in early 2017.
Outwardly, I too looked like the smiling, happy new mum with her bundle of joy newborn baby. To the woman scanning my groceries, to the old couple in the park, to my own mother, to my husband, I seemed ‘fine’. Maybe a little tired or a bit up and down, but ‘fine.’
And yet little did they know that inside I was drowning, terrified and screaming for help, but didn’t know how to get my voice out of my own head.
Last night I watched Deirdre’s husband Andrew McGinley talk about his three gorgeous children with such dignity and love.
He came across as an incredible man who has been through the unimaginable. I cried as I watched and later read through the comments on social media. People agreeing at how stong and postivie he was, at how much he loved his children and at how wonderfully he is keeping their memory alive.
Simply put, the entire country is heartbroken for him.
It’s a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened. A woman who loved her kids more than anything was failed in the worst way. The result was an unimaginable horror story the likes of which most of us can hardly fathom.
This week, the jury in the trial of Deirdre Morley came back with a verdict of not guilty of the murder of her three young children by reason of insanity.
Upon the verdict, Andrew said he was still left wondering why this had happened to his family. He had been given no real answers and was in fact left with more questions.
He and his family sat in the courtroom and heard psychiatrists talk about his wife in a completely new light, it was as if he was hearing about another person and not the woman he knew, because Deirdre was able to hide how she was feeling. He was not informed or included in her care due to issues around confidentiality and an outdated approach to family advocacy.
In a statement he accepted the verdict was the probably the right one and acknowledged that his wife adored their children, but was clear that he felt that changes are urgently needed in terms of a more inclusive approach to including family members as advocates in a person’s mental health treatment. Simply put, if he had been included in her care, this tragedy may not have happened.
Andrew deserves answers and I hope that he is afforded them.
Ever since I heard about the tragic case last year, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. While Deirdre’s experiences and mental health needs were different, more complex and ongoing than my own experience with post natal depression, I still couldn’t help but think that in another life, with a slightly different set of circumstances that maybe this could have been me… maybe it could have been you?
The truth is that the mask Deirdre Morley wore is one many mothers have donned to some degree.
Not a person in this county has not felt a huge outpouring of grief and shock this week at this truly tragic case. But being simply heartbroken for Andrew and his family isn’t going to stop this happening again.
Shockingly in the past 20 years over 50 children have died at the hands of one of their parents. Over 60% of those people were known to have had previous contact with psychiatric services.
Changes are urgently needed. As a whole, the issue of mental health needs to be taken more seriously, we need more concrete resources put into services and we need reform of how families are included as advocates.
Ultimately as a society, we need to start talking about maternal mental health and mental health in general. Changing the attitudes towards it, creating a culture where people are encouraged to get help and when they do take that step we have do ensure that can do so without fearing judgement, are taken seriously and are treated sensitivity. Issues around ways to include the family in the process where appropriate must be explored and actioned as a priority.
Andrew is keeping the memory of his late children alive with a YouTube channel called Conor’s Clips, a new charity called As Darragh Did, to encourage community participation. And for Carla, he has started a colouring competition.
*Resources where you can find help-
1800 80 48 48
1800 247 247
Text HELP to 51444