Thursday, May 31, 2007


Getting help

On Tuesday morning, Gilberta Estrada killed herself and three of her daughters:

A woman who was said to be struggling with depression apparently hanged her four young daughters in their North Texas mobile home early Tuesday morning before hanging herself, the authorities said.

The youngest child, an eight-month-old baby, survived and was listed in good condition at a Fort Worth hospital. She was found hanging from her neck by a sweater sleeve in a bedroom closet alongside her sisters, whose ages are thought to be 2, 3 and 5, and their mother, said Larry Fowler, the Parker County sheriff.

That Ms Estrada was depressed doesn't surprise me: being poor is depressing in itself; I can't imagine how it must be to be 25 and have four children to support on the pay one earns in a fast-food restaurant.

In discussing this, a friend said that it's really terrible that people don't seek the help they need, or that friends and family don't see to it that they get the help they need. But let's be realistic: she's a 25-year-old single mother of four, she came here from Mexico and might feel uncomfortable and not speak English very well, she's probably not well educated, and she works at a burger place. She's not likely to seek help — she's not likely to have the means to seek help nor the education to even think it a possibility, and that's ignoring any social and cultural issues.

Help needed to seek her.

In tribal times, the village would see that she needed help, and would see that it was provided to her. The village would take care of the children. The village would make sure the family was fed. The village would offer what passed for mental-health counselling. She would contribute to the village and the village would provide for her family, for the future of the village.

But our society's spread out, and isn't like that any more. We try to fill that gap with family, with friends, with church and social groups, and sometimes it works. Often, though, it doesn't; we're just not on top of it any more, as the difficulties spin out of control.

What would help would be a social-worker system that allowed social workers to track people like that — families that will clearly have difficulty making ends meet, heads of households who are in a likely position to snap — and keep an eye on them, offer them help, make sure they know what's available and where they can get it. We don't, of course, have the resources to do this. In any big city there's far too much of that for the tiny army of social workers available. In any rural area things are too spread out, and there are even fewer people to cover it.

But we have 150,000 US soldiers in Iraq.

But we spend on the order of half a trillion dollars each year directly on the US military.

What if we took just 20% of that — 100 billion dollars — and spent it on social work? That still leaves a staggering 400 billion dollars for the military.

What if we spent 100 billion dollars helping the struggling poor, rather than building more aircraft carriers?


Maggie said...

It's terribly depressing that the resources of this world aren't used to make sure the basic needs of every human are met.

I cannot imagine the feelings and thoughts that could lead to killing your own children. The feelings to preserve them are so strong. How did she kill the five-year-old? (Did she comply, was she drugged/asleep, did she struggle with her?) It must have been horrible.

That is a heartbreaking story.

Anonymous said...

I can not evn imagine how this woman most have felt, to have done this to her babies,I am a 27 year old Mexican single mother of 2 myself. I think it has always been hard to all single parents but I also think that you have to be sick to do something like this to your kids. they should be what makes you stronger and want to do better instead of wanting to kill yourself or your kids. in my own opinion there is no abuse which every Mexican women is has or will experience due to the fact that Mexican men think they own their wife and that they can do as they wish with then. that is not enough to kill u nor your kids. bottom line is IT WAS NO ONES FULT BUT HERS. IF U R DEPRESS AND YOU KNOW IT GET HELP THERE ARE PLEACES TO GO TO THERE IS WAY MORE HELP HERE THEN YOU EVER KNEW IN MEXICO, TRUST ME I AM A MEXICAN.

Dr. Momentum said...

Social work isn't as exciting as explosions.