More than 120 Georgians died last year in domestic violence incidents, and one-third of those deaths were murder-suicides. Those findings are from a new report by the Georgia Fatality Review Project.
The report looked at more than 100 separate incidents of homicides involving domestic violence and also noted that in nearly 40 percent of those cases, the perpetrators had threatened or attempted suicide.
Taylor Tabb headed up the reporting for the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“To me, that 37 percent of perpetrators who were threatening or attempting prior to killing someone and then killing themselves represent the missed opportunity,” said Tabb.
She said they’re missed opportunities because when a domestic abuser is interacting with a mental health care or medical provider, the connections between that abuse and depression or suicidal thoughts often get overlooked.
Tabb remembered a case from a couple years ago involving a man with a history of being abusive and who had been stalking his wife after she made moves toward getting a divorce.
“He had a history of depression and within two weeks before the murder-suicide had just started taking antidepressants,” said Tabb. She said the tragedy highlights several points at which increased training may have helped.
Tabb said more people interacting with both domestic violence victims and perpetrators need to be trained to identify mental health issues and help persuade those involved to get access to resources.
“Oh, this person is giving some kind of indication about there being violence in the home, or some of what we would call ‘risk markers’ like access to firearms or their partner’s recently left them or they’re subject to a protective order, something along those lines,” said Tabb.
She said those points of potential intervention can and should include law enforcement, court officers and community members.
As of last week, Tabb’s group is working with the state Department of Behavioral Health and suicide prevention advocates to organize more of those trainings.