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Day 1136: Unemployed Man Kills Family, Self

CNN article

Authorities said [Karthik Rajaram] had an MBA in finance but appeared to have been unemployed for several months and had worked for major accounting firms, such as Price Waterhouse, police said.

… the victims included Rajaram’s mother-in-law, Indra Ramasesham, 69, and his 19-year-old son Krishna Rajaram, a Fulbright Scholar and honor student at UCLA.  Also dead were Rajaram’s wife, 39, and their two other sons, 12 and 7.

This eloquent statement by the deputy police chief stuck with me:

“This is a perfect American family behind me that has absolutely been destroyed, apparently because of a man who just got stuck in a rabbit hole, if you will, of absolute despair, somehow working his way into believing this to be an acceptable exit.”

In desparation, Rajaram would have taken solely his own life.  Killing his whole family was nothing short of all-out madness.

How humans, including and especially Indians, go about the very real malady of mental illness shows that we have not arrived as a species.  Why is it generally something not to be talked about with a friend or an expert and as treatable, or at least bearable, with a combination of counseling and short-term or permanent medication?  What good is a taboo to be pushed into the pit of one’s stomach and overcome through Denial and Will Power?   What makes mental illness somehow a flaw in the Strong Genetic and Moral Fibre of an Upstanding Person and not something all too normal in creatures made of chemicals and emotions?

Don’t get me wrong, I do not advocate talking about your depression or anxiety with everyone who will listen. Privacy and propriety are important to a lot of people, and for that matter, the “liberated” West itself has a long way to go in widely accepting mental illness as just that, an illness.  Also, as someone who thinks modern Americans are an overmedicated society, I will not suggest that every bout of ennui should immediately be followed up with a double dose of Xanax.  What I do recommend is an accepting society that encourages a person to confront his or her demons with the right amounts of the right tools.

What if Mr. Rajaram hadn’t felt all alone in the world and not considered this a way out?  What if being man enough to confront his problems was not by killing himself and his family, but through a support system of friends, relatives and the knowledge that he was not the only one in his predicament?  What if he had shlepped himself to the nearest clinic and just talked to someone?  What if he had felt sure of himself as a man to do that?  What if human interdependence were alive and well?  What if?  For starters, his wife, three children and mother-in-law may still be alive.

A few years ago, a brilliant woman I went through college with killed herself after a lifelong battle with depression.  She was not one of the nicest, but definitely one of the smartest and most passionate, people I have known.  In lieu of flowers, her family asked that we donate to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  I am not asking that you do the same, but suggest we learn more about mental illnesses and support legislation that, at the very least, treats them as an individual and societal problem which warrants respect and more research.  With the economy doing poorly and all of these pink slips and home foreclosures, I can’t help but wonder if there’s going to be more gruesome news like today’s.  For this and more, we need all the mental health we can get.

2 comments… add one
  • liprap October 7, 2008, 11:11 AM

    Heh. My comment turned into a post at my neck of the woods.

    A few years back, I saw in Dan’s Illini alum magazine that Iris Chang had died. I was in shock – she was a brilliant scholar and had written so many amazing books on Chinese culture and one on the Chinese Americans. It didn’t mention HOW she died, though – and it took some digging to find she’d succumbed to the madness of mental illness. If only someone had been able to tell her to slow down, that she didn’t have to be throwing herself into so many heady, heavy subjects all at once, to live for herself a little more, especially since she’d just had a son…all of it still kills me to this day.

    When will it change? How many people will have to die by their own hands before everyone sees there is a problem?

  • Maitri October 7, 2008, 12:09 PM

    Iris Chang went to my high school and spoke at one of our commencement ceremonies. Again, another brilliant and passionate person who thought suicide was the only solution. The wars, New Orleans after Katrina, the economy, and we somehow think mental health is a fringe benefit.

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