A 53-year-old Asian-American woman, Xiao Au Cai, was arrested on the evening of November 2nd (which was, coincidentally Elections Night, but hopefully that’s unrelated to this case) after getting into an argument with her daughter. Cai threw the 3-year-old boy from the family’s seventh floor terrace, and then attempted to commit suicide by jumping after him.
“I saw a woman up there screaming. She was trying to jump off and someone was trying to stop her from jumping,” said Cynthia Herbin, who heard blood-curdling screams from inside her apartment across the street.
People in the apartment prevented Cai from jumping, and she was taken into custody by authorities. The toddler, who would have turned four next week, was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Cai was described by police as “a very depressed individual”, and is apparently on medication to treat her mental illness.
This case is truly horrific and tragic, and, to me, represents yet another example of how cultural stigma of mental illness is producing a disparity between patients and appropriate treatment. At the risk of speculating, I worry that this behaviour is characteristic of someone who may have gone of their medication, or whose medication is simply inadequate. Depressed individuals need to have cultural and community support to maintain treatment, because one of the horrible consequences of depression is that depressed individuals whose medication is working sometimes believe they no longer need to continue taking them. “I feel fine,” they say, not realizing that it is the pills that are helping them feel fine.
Community apathy and stigma about depression and mental illness promotes miseducation that exacerbates diseases to the point where tragedies like this happen. And, sadly the net result is the criminalization of the mentally ill that perpetuates the stigma of mental illness and depression in our community and the mainstream. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to stop.