Local murder-suicide rate highlights disturbing trend

UTHSC psychiatrist: ‘People accept this as a new normal'

SAN ANTONIO – Each time Dr. Steven Pliszka sees a story about another murder-suicide in the San Antonio area, the chair of the psychiatry department at the University of Texas Health Science Center said he worries.

“People sometimes think, ‘Well, that’s the way it is,’” Pliszka said. “That’s a dangerous feeling. People accept this as a new normal.”

KSAT 12 News has covered six murder-suicides so far this year in and around San Antonio. The latest involved the killing of Sharon Wilbanks, 58, who taught at Harmony Elementary.

According to the Violence Policy Center, murder-suicide is also a disturbing trend nationally.

Researchers said since there is no national database, they had to track media coverage over the first six months of 2014.

Its study, "American Roulette,” found 282 murder-suicides, averaging 11 a week. The study said 93 percent involved a gun, and 75 percent of the violence was between intimate partners.

Pliszka said not only has the family structure become frayed with time, “People are much more stressed generally, economically.”

He said when it comes to personal relationships, “People have much higher expectations what they want out of a relationship and that makes them less patient.”

Pliszka said many also have grown more and more impatient in their daily lives.

He said anger can evolve into rage.

“Letting it out, in fact, does not make it go away. It actually makes you feel worse, and makes you more likely to lose your temper the next time,” Pliszka said.

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He said there’s also been a decline in “impulse control” over the past decade.

“The problem is that once something gets out of control, there’s no turning back,” he said.

Pliszka said he urges those in potentially volatile situations to reach out to family, counselors, mental health professionals or law enforcement.

“People can mobilize resources to help you,” he said.