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How far a shared psychosis can go?

July 5, 2018

Dr. Srikanth Reddy

How far a shared psychosis can go?
By Dr. Srikanth Reddy (Psychiatrist in Indore)

Burari mass suicide case is one of the worst crime incidents that have occurred in the country. As a psychiatrist in Indore, I feel sad to see such preventable unfortunate events. This is just an example to show how far a shared psychosis can go.The literature has plenty of such cases but most of the cases involve two or three family members. A case involving eleven family members having a shared psychosis is probably one of the rarest. Lalit Bhatia one of the elder males in the family had taken vow of silence and was said to be interacting with his dead father who had died 10 years ago. The notings in his diary clearly say that he believed that the apocalypse was near and all the family members have to perform some rituals to attain “Moksh” . These rituals involved mass hanging of all the members of the family. Lalit had said that at the last moment, his death father would save everybody and the whole family would attain Moksh. The whole family believed in him and kept believing him for even days of probably months before they committed suicide. It seems that nobody questioned this belief and it was followed with such fixity that it appears it could be a case of shared psychosis.

Shared psychosis is one of the psychiatry conditions where a dominant member develops a psychiatric illness and forms false and fixed believes. Rest of the family members who are generally more submissive tend to start believing in the delusions of the dominant member. The literature has plenty of such cases but most of the cases involve two or three family members. A case involving eleven family members having a shared psychosis is probably one of the rarest. Truly an unfortunate event.

Although most of the activities were done in secrecy it is still difficult to believe that none of the distant family people had any hint about the deviant behaviour of the Bhatias. What was required at this point of time was early identification of this deviant behaviour as a psychiatric illness and appropriate help should have been sought at the right time. A simple separation of the dominant primary psychotic person from rest of the family members by itself leads to a significant improvement in such cases of shared psychosis. It’s time that the society starts recognising that psychiatric illness are there every where and a high degree of suspicion is required for any deviantart abnormal behavioural. What makes me upset is that this unfortunate incident could have been averted.

Dr. Srikanth Reddy MD
Psychiatrist and De-Addiction Specialist
Vijay Nagar, Indore

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    • Dr O P Gupta

      July 6, 2018

      Dear Dr Shrikant
      I fully agree, it could have been prevented. It is purely psychsis resulted in untimely death of 11 individual. But how everyone can be almost hypnotized to follow the leader? All appeared to be well educated. No body—almost nobody protested or could get separated from the lot?All were not psychotic, I feel. shall be call them educated illiterate!

      Why dont you write down for the JMGIMS a brief (about 1500 words) about shared psycosis
      I hope it will be possible. Send the same by the end of this month.

      • Dr. Srikanth Reddy

        July 12, 2018

        Good Morning Sir,
        History is replete with a lot of such incidents on mass suicides. The cult thinking has always kept behavioural scientists busy. Sir will surely contact you on email.

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