Why Were 8 Children Murdered In Cairns?

Terry Firma has an interesting blog post on Patheos about the recent killings in Cairns. Obviously, I live there (or I did, until a few weeks ago) and so I heard plenty of local ‘news’ on the subject. Mostly speculation and gossip, the kind that surrounds any horrible local event, but the big thing that it was blamed on was the drug “ice”. It seemed like a semi-reasonable explanation at the time, after all, “ice” is certainly a hell of a drug.

However, new evidence has been coming through that points at another cause for the killings. From the Courier Mail:

The 37-year-old Cairns mother accused of murdering eight children had recently turned to religion and banned technology from her home.

Raina Mersane Ina Thaiday, who remains under police guard in hospital, had taken to giving fiery sermons in the street and had cut the power to her home and threw away the television, neighbours told News Corp.

She warned locals not to use their mobile phones because they were the “work of the Devil” and posted a handwritten sign on a front window of her public housing home that read: “No alcohol, cigarette, and drunken people allowed in this area.”

It looks like it’s one of those sad stories of religious psychosis. It’s very hard to distinguish between ‘normal’ people who ‘talk to god’ and people with mental disorders who are ‘talking to god’. You literally can’t tell the difference until someone does something terrible, like in this case.

Obviously, I do not at all think that all religious people are like this. But I find it scary that mentally ill people can fit so seamlessly into the religious scenario and that actions that would otherwise peg them as being mentally ill, i.e. “God spoke to me and told me X” can be embraced and revered amongst otherwise mentally healthy people, simply because of the connection to (a) god.

I hope that the next time someone starts talking about “the work of the devil” and banning electronics from their house that the people around them will act in a manner that will provide some form of help (note: I don’t know how any of the neighbours or loved ones responded to the accused’s actions, but it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility that her actions were taken as a sign of ‘getting closer to god’ and therefore were thought of in a beneficial light, especially the parts about cigarettes, drugs and alcohol (which, overall is probably a good thing, just done with the wrong reasons to justify it)).

The whole thing is incredibly depressing for us all and especially horrific for all of the people directly involved (from the family, to the neighbours, to the first responders and emergency personnel). I don’t blame anyone involved in the situation for what happened, with the possible exception of the accused woman, although I think that mental instability probably played a role that might lead to ‘reduced culpability’ for her actions (having said that, every single time something like this happens we need to remember that mental illness and violence are -not- linked. The majority of mentally ill people lead lives that are in no way violent or harmful, in the exact same way that the majority of mentally well people lead lives that are not violent or harmful).

Let us hope that we can put systems into place that don’t allow this sort of thing to happen again.

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