In her first nonfiction book, Mary K Pershall examines the complex mental and institutional issues that led to the ‘unimaginable horror’ of her child taking another’s life

Mary Pershall dared to hope. Her daughter, Anna, had agreed to go to rehab, to tackle her dependence on alcohol, synthetic cannabis and ice. In return, Mary had put aside her scruples and driven to an adult store so that Anna could buy synthetic cannabis. It’s not an uncommon bargaining chip used by despairing parents. It would keep Anna’s withdrawals at bay until she was safely under medical supervision, but also – hopefully – secure her cooperation.

Not long after, Mary was chopping vegetables in their comfortable home in Oak Park, a northern suburb of Melbourne, when she spotted Anna walking briskly off down the driveway. She dropped the knife and ran after her.

Related: ‘Mine is not a hedonistic tale’: Jenny Valentish on trauma, addiction and the women left behind

She was this beautiful young white woman, so people didn’t take her seriously when she was being violent

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Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment".

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17 November 2018