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ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – For the 3rd time this year a mother in the St. Louis area has taken their own life after murdering their own children.

The latest tragedy was Thursday morning when Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies discovered the bodies of 22-month-old Faith Ehlen, 10-year-old Autumn Cochran and 11-year-old Alyssa Cochran. They were found inside a vehicle parked outside the home of their mother’s boyfriend, Christopher Ehlen.

Their mother, 32-year-old Lisa Cochran, was found dead on the front porch steps.

“This cuts across cultural boundaries, this cuts across race, socio economic status, everyone has vulnerability to mental health episodes,” said Dr. Diane Sanford, a local Women’s Heath Psychologist.

She is author of several books including, “Life Will Never Be the Same: The Real Mom`s Postpartum Survival Guide.”

Sanford has interviewed women who have murdered their own children and then failed in a suicide attempt.

“These women are not villains,” said Sanford.  She says moms who kill their own children are no different that many other mothers, “However, they are extremely mental ill and they didn’t get the support and treatment they needed to prevent these tragedies from happening.”

Sanford hopes these recent tragedies do more than spark an open conversation about mental illness.  She believes the key is getting treatment to those who need it.

“We have to pay attention when someone doesn’t seem themselves,” said Sanford.  “When they’re having a lot of stress, when they’re having a lot of anxiety , if their moods are changing frequently, those are all warning signs.”

Sanford says women needing help can call the Mother to Mother Postpartum and Pregnancy Telephone Support at 314-644-7001 or 1-877-644-7001.

National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)