Tamara Butler trial: mental illness

| 01/04/2016 | 35 Comments

Cayman News ServiceDawn writes: I think this trial and verdict draws attention to the stigma that continues to be associated with mental illness and the comments made here continue to prove why persons with mental illness don’t seek help. I’ve known Tamara for over 20 years and I have always known her to be a meek and gentle person. She has never been a confrontational person and never violent. Many things failed in this case; society and its prejudices against the mentally ill failed as it led to her trying to downplay what she was going through.

Her husband failed to take the warning signs seriously, being the only other adult in the household and having been married to her for several years. He said he saw changes but he did very little to help, especially on the night in question. He should have immediately taken her to a hospital when she shaved her head and never have left his daughter with her. But yet again, his failure might have been as a result of not wanting people to say his wife was crazy, or people in his business … afraid of the stigma that a small community would place on his family.

The justice system failed to help someone who genuinely needs help. The system yet again failed to recognise mental illness. It did not adequately take into consideration the changes in Tamara’s personality and the testimony of both experts and even her husband, who himself spoke to how ‘out of character’ her acts were.

While many stand in judgment based on what they read in a news article, no one can understand until they deal with it themselves. As black and Caribbean people we are conditioned to suck it up when it comes to mental illnesses as it’s considered a sign of weakness. Our ancestors lived through worse without psychiatrists … “People in Africa dying of hunger and you talking about you depressed!” — things like that are why people often keep these issues to themselves and this situation shows the horror that can happen if we continue to ignore mental illness in our societies.

I pray for Tamara that she finds healing. I pray for her beautiful daughter that she continues to rest in peace. I pray for Mr Butler, who will have to live with the remnants of his family as I am sure he has guilt and thoughts of what could have or should have happened. I pray for Tamara’s parents as they continue to fight to get her the help she needs.

Imagine her mother, having lost a granddaughter and now a daughter, having to visit her daughter in jail in another country, then leaving her there every time knowing that she is unwell and not getting help.

This comment was written in response to Mother found guilty of child’s murder

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Category: Health, Mental Health, Viewpoint

Comments (35)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I 1000% percent agree with the writer. The writer is not out for blaming the husband but however facts are there to prove that he noticed a change in his wife behavior several months leading up to her killing their daughter and even the very night it happen he testified in court and said that before leaving the home he had locked Bethany in a room with a cell phone which had 911 programmed in it and to call him if she needed him, which is prove that he sensed something was wrong that night and instead of seeking help as the father and as a police officer at that (to serve and to protect), he just ignored the warning signs. Just maybe if he had seek help or try to better protect his daughter she may have still been here today.

    And another note we individuals of stable mind shall not judge those that are mentally ill until we are walking in their shoes and facing their struggles and challenges and I am speaking from experience as a person whom has lost a brother due to being mentally unstable and from living with my husband who is diagnosed mentally unstable.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Please readers! This act of Mrs. Butler killing her child cannot be considered normal in our modern society. I do not know what drove her to that decision to take her daughter’s life and cannot comment on that. However, she must be castigated and given the opportunity for medical treatment for a very long time behind bars.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’ve known Tamara since high school, and yes, just as the writer wrote in her article, Tamara was meek and gentle. However, the writer forgot to add that Tamara loved to laugh…

    The last time I saw Tamara was 2011. She and I were on the same flight to the Turk and Caicos Islands. I hadn’t seen or heard from her in years, so it was good to see her that day. She told me that she was married and had a little girl. I jokingly said to her that I hope her daughter’s head wasn’t as big as hers; she looked at me and we both busted out laughing. We talked through the entire flight. That day I didn’t see any changes in her personality; she was the same old Tamara, so when they told me she killed her daughter, I couldn’t process that in my head at all. And to tell you the truth, I still can’t process it. I often ask myself what went wrong in Tamara’s life that led her to commit such a heinous act. It seems so unreal.

    To this day, I still pray for my friend and her beautiful daughter. I pray that she finds peace that passes all understanding. I pray for her parents that God will give them peace of mind in these trying times in their life. But most of all, I pray that God gives the husband a peace of mind. Yes, I pray that God gives him a peace of mind also. I totally disagree with the writer when she said that the husband failed. No, he didn’t. He did what all of us would have done. You see, we human beings have a propensity to see other people’s problems (or weird behaviors), but when it comes to our own, for some reason, we can’t see what’s anything.

    May the grace of God be with you my dear friend!

    • Anonymous says:

      God alone knows what happened to Tamara, and why. And in the end God alone will judge her. Thank God He is a merciful God. Unlike a frightening number of the ignorant commenters here.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just to add to my comments, why didn’t Tamara’s parents and sister who she visited frequently in Turk and Caicos Islands didn’t notice something strange about her behavior, and if they did, then why didn’t they seek professional help for her…better yet, Tamara knew that she had a problem so why didn’t she reach out to her husband and parents for help? So it is NOT fair to put all the blame on the husband. Again, is the husband wrong for ignoring the signs given the fact that he is her husband? No! Remember, in his testimony in court he stated that although Tamara’s behavior was unusual, she never was violent forward him or their daughter, so there was no need for him to suspect that she would ever kill their child. In my opinion, Tamara and everyone that was involved in her life should take some responsible for what happened here. This child shouldn’t have died so early.

      Also, Dawn stated that the justice system failed. The justice system didn’t fail, Dawn. I strongly believe that the judge who presided over this case believes that Tamara has a mental problem, but remember that there is no mental facility in the Cayman Islands so the judge had to find her guilty of murder. What do you want the judge to do in this situation?! He/she can’t allow a mental person walking the street freely. Look, at the end of the day, whether it is in a mental institution or in a prison, Tamara should pay for what she did to this baby. Let’s not forget an 8-year-old girl’s life was cut short here.

      Finally, Dawn wrote and I quote, “as black and Caribbean people we’re conditioned to suck it up when it comes to mental illnesses as it’s considered a sign of weakness”. Where did this come from?! Black people as a whole look at mental illness as a sign of weakness, not just black Caribbean people. We see this on the news every day how the Americans, not just black Americans, don’t talk about mental illnesses with their loved ones. A 21-year-old black man in Miami killed his 2-month baby girl just last week. His family was aware of his mental state but did nothing to help him. The baby’s mother knew he had a problem but still left the baby with him. Here in the US we see these kind of people killing their parents, sisters and brothers, co-workers and even strangers every day. This is the end result of being ignorant. Mental illness is not being talk about in the black Caribbean’s homes nor in the black American’s homes as it such be. So please don’t make it seems as though we (Caribbean people) are not in touch with today’s world.

      Dawn, I think you failed to make valid points in this article. Not only that, but you were one sided. As I mentioned in my first comment, I’ve known Tamara since High school. I have never met the husband, so people can see that I am not one sided here.

      Again, may God be with everyone involve!

      P.R.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’ve known Tamara since high school, and yes, just as the writer wrote in her article, Tamara was meek and gentle. However, the writer forgot to add that Tamara loved to laugh…

    The last time I saw Tamara was 2011. She and I were on the same flight to the Turk and Caicos Islands. I hadn’t seen or heard from in years, so it was good to see her that day. She told me that she was married and had a little girl. I jokingly said to her that I hope her daughter’s head wasn’t as big as hers; she looked at me and we both busted out laughing. We talked through the whole flight. That day I didn’t see any changes in her personality; she was the same old Tamara, so when they told me she killed her daughter, I couldn’t process that in my head at all. And to tell you the truth, I still can’t process it. I often ask myself what went wrong in Tamara’s life that led her to commit such a heinous act. It seems so unreal.

    To this day, I still pray for my friend and her beautiful daughter. I pray that she finds peace that passes all understanding. I pray for her parents that God will give them peace of mind in these trying times in their life. But most of all, I pray that God gives the husband a peace of mind. Yes, I pray that God gives him a peace of mind also. I totally disagree with the writer when she said that the husband failed. No, he didn’t. He did what all of us would have done. You see, we human beings have a propensity to see other people problems (or weird behaviors), but when it comes to our own, for some reason, we can’t see what happening.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Further to my initial post re the role our culture of religion plays as it concerns our attitudes to mental health; let us bear in mind that, according to Mrs Butler (a devout Christian), God instructed her to kill her own daughter.

    Personally, I find it quite bothersome the number of people in this world that commit the most atrocious of acts and crimes as command given by their respective God. (This includes Islamic bomb terrorists and Christian abortion clinic gunmen.)

    What is really going on here? Are crazy people attracted to religion? Does religion appeal to the mentally unstable? Does blind faith gradually destabilize the natural wiring of the brain thereby allowing for all sorts of twisted motivations and intentions to enter? Would this particular tragedy been avoided had Mrs Butler not been a devout Christian / faithful person?

    Who or what would have been the fingered “fall guy” (God in this instance) if circumstances were different?

    (*All Jesus freaks, please take a chill pill. All biblical verses and references will be rightly ignored. If you can’t step out of your box to engage in pragmatic discussion then you’re probably better off not responding.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Crazy people must be drawn to religion. I once had a teacher (on this island) who told us that she would kill her kids if “God” told her to. Even at 8 years old I knew this woman was completely psychotic and my parents pulled me from that school.

      • Anonymous says:

        Religion has nothing to do with what this young lady did to her daughter. The God that i worship wouldn’t tell me or anyone to do such a thing. Many people have sense to know that if they hear something like that in their head it is NOT God. Apart of their brain is not functioning as it such and they need to seek a doctor so he or she can diagnose them correctly.

        Only fools say there is NO God!

  6. SocialiteCommenta says:

    True ! TruE! Also true is the fact that Caribbean people love to use their kids to punish their other halves in relationships. We have seen it many times and this just seems to be another case of that…sorry. Remember the guy who stabbed the other and walked free? There was a reason for that bcus murder required string proof. Now I doubt the justice system really failed this woman- a woman who killed her child! Of course they went above and beyond even having more than one expert. The husband must have known if she goes to extreme to get attention ..but would he have said that? Anyways just sticking to the facts here. She showed no signs hike in custody… They said she wasn’t mad enough to kill her without knowing hat she was doing in layman so term.
    As per he stigma attached ..No! Not in Cayman where there are so many documented cases of even mild reading disorders. We want to think the best but the woman is a murderer.
    People must realise that the law of the land different from those that are in heaven – Gid can’t command you to kill and u do it ya hear!
    Her behaviour was typical of a woman scorned … Seeking attention …marriage on the rocks so she is going to mashup her life and everybody associatedand she decided to take out her biggest competition the female with her husbands true and unwavering attention ..her own daughter. Yes she must have had a slight touch a something to justify it to herself but not enough not to be culpable. It is a sad situation all around may the family including her find peace

  7. Anonymous says:

    Her lawyers did not convince the judge she had a mental illness and I agree with him. Fine let’s discuss the issue and get a proper facility – but this case is the wrong one to use to support it. I agree with the overseas expert on her real diagnosis.

    • 345 says:

      So all the doctors and nurses who saw her at the time are wrong and some clown comes in 11 months later and through time travel, is able to diagnose her properly? Give me break – justice was not served.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I have a sad recollection of the attitude toward mental illness when a lady in the neighbourhood used to “go off her head, ranting and raving”. I spoke to another closer neighbour and wondered aloud as to what could be done for the lady, only to be told that she was “devil possessed” and that nothing could be done. I wonder if that attitude still prevails? If so, we are in deep trouble.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Believing in extraordinary claims without any evidence is mental illness in itself. Shaving your head is no clear sign of mental illness. People, women, change their hair all the time. A good sign of mental illness would be someone telling you that there is a invisible goat who lives in the sky and talks to you. To you the person has no evidence to suggest that the claim is even remotely true, which is a lot like what all Christians do. Tamara was a real Christian. Real Christians follow the orders of their God. Take Abraham for example. Now either God was testing this woman and she passed or this woman was mentally unstable to begin with and Christianity which is suppose to be the only answer and knowledge you need in this life was the underlying reason she eventually carried out murder. It was because of the indoctrination of Christianity from such a early age that is actually to blame for this. If not for the religion Christianity maybe that little girl would still be here with us today being that her mentally unstable mother would not have been subjected to Christianity which with her underlying mental illness was a receipe for disaster. What is the difference between a Muslim who kills in the name of god and Tamara who kills for God? Nothing. Both are mentally unstable and kill for their own god whether it’s Allah, Jesus, or Yaweh.
    What’s the difference between a Christian claiming a miracle and a muslim claiming a miracle? Nothing, but one will attribute miracle to their own God. Why not attribite death as well. If miracles are to be contributed to a act of some god then why not believe that death can be atributed to the same god as well. There is no evidence to suggest whatever you see as a miracle to be act of a higher power, yet god will get the praise for it. There is no evidence to suggest tamara isn’t lying based off the same logic that miracles are a work of god. Either God really did test this woman or it was the belief in a God that drove her to kill her own child..

    • Lexa says:

      Excellent comment @ 6:29am.

      I would note, however subtle it seems; Tamara did not say “Jesus Christ, my savior, told me to kill my own daughter.” She didn’t say “Jesus”, she didn’t say “the Lord”…

      She simply said “God”. It is important to remember satan considers himself a “God”; food for thought.

      We don’t need to make it more complicated than it is; she was possessed.

      P.S I don’t go to church, and I don’t consider myself a Christian, that would be hypocrisy.

      Rather; I am human, I make mistakes and I learn from them along the way.

      I am more disturbed by the child’s father’s behavior over the mother’s; simply because he knew she was “unstable” (the mother) and he allowed his daughter to be left in her care after she made it clear to him she did not feel SAFE with her mother. Child’s own instincts. Father chooses to ignore his daughter’s instincts and plea for help and now she’s dead. He even left 911 on speed dial for her on his cell phone!

      • Anonymous says:

        Case in point.

        Thank you poster for proving what a few of us have highlighted in this thread re the challenges surrounding attitudes to mental health and religion.

        So..devil possessed you say?

        Interesting.

        :-/

  10. Rick says:

    It is interesting how you liberally blame the husband without the intimate knowledge that only being a part of a marriage and family can bring. What if he decides that the strain of losing a daughter and the life long burden of a wife in prison for having killed that daughter plus the stigma being attributed by self-righteous blabbermouths like you, were too much, and decided to do something equally dramatic, would that be enough for you to judge less and seek to understand more???????

    One does not have to be guilty for the other to be innocent. They can be equally innocent, or equally guilty, or none of the above, for a complete tragedy to occur none-the-less.

    There is free speech and we have the right to comment; but, sometimes that amounts to exercising the right to being the most insensitive kind of an idiot.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sir if you read the article it speaks to the husband and what he did after his wife of over 10 years shaved her head and then attempted to shave their daughter’s head.

      I don’t think the post was blaming him, it was simply stating that his lack of action might have been a result of denial and the stigma associated with mental illness. In a more open minded society maybe he would have felt more comfortable to take immediate more forceful action that night. He failed her and we as a society failed them and all others who are too afraid to bring their problems to light.

      Society’s blind eye to mental illness is why so many of us are ill equipped to deal with it. How many of us say everything is OK when we are collapsing inside and ashamed to ask for help.

      We can’t let shame or our ignorance stop us from trying to heal ourselves and our loved ones.

    • whatever says:

      I think that the question many are wondering about is if he knew that she was mentally ill, and he must have, based on the fact that most people don’t willy-nilly shave their heads (especially not women) why did he leave his daughter with his wife? He locked his daughter in the room to prevent his wife from gaining access to her – that obviously shows that he was concerned about his wife’s mental stability. Granted, most people won’t think that their spouse is going to kill the kids, but she wasn’t acting all that stable now was she… Though he has suffered enough, these are legitimate questions to ask. He was after all married to her and probably the only one in a position to observe some serious changes in her. Which leads to the question that this lady asked – why did he not get her help? A mentally ill person is often incapable of making those choices on their own…

      • Anonymous says:

        Did anyone of you people noticed that his own church counselor told both of them she needed psychiatric help? Did any of the negative posters noticed that she was being treated by a psychiatrist after she left Cayman and that it was her mother who took her for treatment and her husband encouraged her to return to Cayman? Do any of you really understand that mental illness is not something you turn on and off by yourself that it is an imbalance that you cannot control on your own and that if she was clear thinking she could have made all the right decisions that we expect a normal person to make. I wish people would stop judging what we do not know or understand as mental illness takes away your ability to REASON – hence if Tamara could reason, her child would be alive. There is also the evidence that all the signs were there but everyone ignored them due to lack of medical knowledge but also because we often describe a person as strange and then we avoid them but never automatically think mental illness. So pray for the family rather than judging in a negative way. Oh but for the Grace of God, go you or me!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Nearly all of us will face some form of mental illness at some time in our lives, due to stress, inability to communicate, hereditary or otherwise. No one likes to admit it, especially in Cayman, but there is no getting away from facts. Personally I have witnessed several people near to me suffering, and in most cases it was not spotted until it became obvious. I myself question whether one particular period of my life was as a result of a mild form of illness, as I find no other way to explain it now. Fortunately owing to a great family support system we were able to get those people assisted and they all recovered. There is nothing wrong with being mentally ill. A lot of it needs just a little help and it will go away. But you need to be aware, watch for it, and know where to go if it happens. Stigma is only in peoples minds, its not a real event, and those that stigmatise mental illness are in denial. Don’t worry about them, they don’t matter, they are part of the problem, not the solution. Worry about you and those close to you, as well as wider society.

    • Anonymous says:

      Your comment in so spot on! Sadly, my experience in Cayman has been that people just don’t want to acknowledge issues and deal with them but rather shift the blame elsewhere. Especially women are just expected to keep on functioning to full capacity no matter what.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Like I said – “small-minded”; and it’s very evident by some of the posts here!! Northward/ Fairbanks, what’s the difference? The point is the lack of proper mental facilities for treatment before such tragedies has contributed to this sad event. Likewise the lack of proper remand facilities for persons like Mrs. Butler, after the sad fact, also contributes to the lack of proper rehabilitation.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The verdict is just fine. Being mentally ill doesn’t mean that you should be exempt from punishment when you do bad things.

    If she needs help, then her family can arrange for a psychologist to visit her in jail, where I hope she will be for the rest of her life.

    All this sympathy for a child-murderer is nonsense.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Respectfully Dawn, I find your first to last paragraph quite unusual and somewhat equal to mental illness.
    I am speaking to the common utterances and references to prayer, Jesus and God at times like these.

    (Hear me out please.)

    Within the context of this particular story, this norm of Caribbean culture, especially in times of serious issues and consideration, appeared to be a running a theme. From what I have gathered Tamara was a devout SDA Christian, and as a fellow person of Caribbean background, you are well aware of the hurdles that our faith culture erects in many aspects of daily life. Who is to say Tamara along with her church members were not earnestly praying for things to get better etc.? We all know that for many of our people that act alone is enough to solve all of the problems in this world.

    E.g. I have a close female relative, now a divorced single mother of 4 children who is a professed born again Christian that is utterly and sincerely convinced that God himself (in her ear) has instructed her to relocate with her kids to a faraway country despite no concrete plan regarding accommodation, schools, job etc.

    As far as I am concerned, that is evidence of someone that is not acting rationally or is lacking proper cognitive functions. Nevertheless, who am I to say that? She would be greatly insulted and apart from this bewildering plan she appears to be completely “okay”.

    My overall point is, whereas you have raised some valid points there exists certain cultural norms that until examined and de-prioritised will continue to be resistance to change as it regards mental illness in our community.

    Lastly, I am curious as to why you, as a close friend for 20 years, did not take it upon yourself to seek help for Mrs. Butler? Or maybe you did?

    May little Bethany rest in eternal peace.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for a rare intelligent comment on this most unfortunate matter. Yes our “system” has indeed miserably failed this woman.

  16. Anonymous says:

    This is truly a sad case for all intimately involved and for the community at large. Equally as sad are the facts that her sentence did not reflect the reality of her mental situation and her related medical needs, which will certainly not be available to her in Northward.

    The larger picture is the continuing failure of our system to address the needs of the mentally ill and, as the writer correctly indicates, the stigma attached to mental illness by our (generally) small-minded society.

    While I can state my hope that Mrs. Butler will receive all the correct medical attention she needs, my hopes are superseded by my doubts. May she find some comfort in God’s love and the same to Mr. Butler on his loss.

    • Anonymous says:

      First of all she is not in Northward. She is in fairbanks.
      Also, anybody did know her personally also failed, not only the husband. If you had know her for a very long time an couldnt tell she would become violent, how the rest of society or her husband in fact know she would turn to violence. Being placed in a mental facility would not do her any justice now. A mental facility would only helped her before the fact not after. If we had the facility now, she would be place in there for the rest of her life and be taking drugs all day long to stay calm and be out of touch with the world. The hard facts is that she wont be free again in her life, either in prison or even in a mental facility. The judge couldnt find her not guilty, she did commit murder and break the law.

      • Anonymous says:

        I gave never met Tamara, but from what I’ve read and heard, there’s no doubt in my mind that she is mentally ill.
        What I do not understand is that the Cayman Islands Government is not reading or taking any advise on the urgency of a mental facility that will house the hundreds of people on this island who are experiencing this deadly disease.
        Our Islands is long been consumed with these individuals and people take advantage of them. We need to stand up and demand a facility that these people will be treated as human not as inhumane as putting them in jail.
        We need to pull together as a community and help each other in supporting our neighbors and friends who are plagued with this terrible sickness. There is no doubt that this family need all the support they can get. They have lost two daughters of great potential to our community

        • Anonymous says:

          The writer hit all points on the head. Where I don’t believe they writer is out an out blaming the husband, but facts are facts, the husband left the child when the mother started cutting her hair and the child told her father she was afraid. I am sure this wasn’t the first time a situation had happened. The father is a police officer and honestly should have seen the signs. As far as society is concerned, the only thing society failed, which I would say is the legal system, is not placing her in a place where she can get the proper help. The general population isn’t responsible for her mental illness

        • Anonymous says:

          Cayman disease, judging people you have no first hand experience of. Why do people stick their noses in with no knowledge of the people involved? Otherwise your comment might have made sense.

        • Anonymous says:

          What I do not understand is that the Cayman Islands Government seems not to be taking seriously it’s laws which prohibit mentally ill persons from overseas becoming members of our community, particularly if they are or are likely to be a danger to others.

          • Anonymous says:

            Few things-

            1. Maybe diagnosed after she got status.

            2.Maybe she was married to a local.

            3. Maybe no diagnosis at all which confirmed true mental illness.

            If you are suggesting that once individuals are diagnosed with a mental illness are reassessed for caymanians status once obtained, then that is a whole other issue.

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