Most of us can remember the shock we felt in June 2001 when the story of Andrea Yates surfaced. The mother of five waited for her husband, Rusty, to leave for work and then one by one, she drowned Noah, John, Paul, Luke and Mary in their family bathtub. She confessed to the crime and, arguing that she suffered from postpartum psychosis, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Trial and Aftermath
After a grueling trial, a jury found her guilty of capital murder but it was later shown that the psychiatrist in the case had provided inaccurate testimony. A Texas appeals court retried Andrea in 2006 and, this time, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Rather than be released to the public, she is currently being held in a hospital.
As the story initially unfolded, it was intriguing to watch the journey of her husband, Rusty, who told Oprah that Andrea is “wonderful.” For this reason, it was difficult for him to file for divorce two years after the tragedy but he has since moved on and is remarried with one biological son and two stepsons. He explained that although he felt he had a “great relationship” with Andrew, he realized that “because of her illness, [he] could never trust her again. [He] could never be in the same house with her.”
Postpartum Depression is Not Uncommon
The Mayo Clinic explains that the birth of a child can result in a severe, long-lasting form of depression and, rarely, an extreme form known as postpartum psychosis. The site explains that this is not a “character flaw or weakness” and can be successfully treated, particularly if identified in its earliest stages. Most books and websites geared towards expectant parents state that the mother often is unaware of how her personality has changed and that her partner will usually be the first to notice.
Andrea will be under psychiatric care for the rest of her life and has been denied permission to leave the hospital to even attend church. Rusty feels that “as long as she’s taking anti-psychotic medicine, she’s no danger to anyone” and should be allowed to have some freedom. He hopes that, due to her long period of stability in the hospital, she could be released in a few years but worries that she does not have a strong enough support system. As a result, combined with the public’s negative opinion of Andrea, he doesn’t believe she will aggressively pursue her freedom.
Over the years, some have criticized Rusty Yates for his role in the situation. Many have felt that he should have recognized the signs of mental illness in his wife and done more to get help for his family before things worsened.
In Andrea Yates’ case, she had five children in quick succession which may have amplified any postpartum issues she was experiencing. Without having first-hand knowledge of her situation, it’s impossible to know the right decision but, hopefully, if she is ever released from the hospital, people will give her chance before passing judgment. Postpartum mental illness is an area that needs greater awareness in order to help new mothers and babies around the world. Hopefully, the reemergence of this story will spark a greater discussion.