The case of 11 members of a family found hanging in north Delhi could be the world's first case of shared psychotic disorder-induced mass suicide, according to one of India's topmost mental health experts.
While the world had seen mass suicide influenced by the leader of a cult or sect – the Jim Jones incident in 1978 – mass suicide from a psychotic disorder was never heard of and the Burari case might be the first one in the world, said Nimesh Desai, director of Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences.
The Delhi Police is planning to carry out a psychological autopsy of the family members based on the documents that were retrieved from the house and interviewing people with whom the family members interacted in the last one-two years.
"Such a reconstruction may actually help unfold the mystery," Desai said in an interaction with journalists here on Friday.
A psychological autopsy attempts to explain why a person has taken his life by analysing medical records, interviewing friends and family and conducting research into his state of mind prior to death.
By going through the notes recovered from the spot, mental health experts try to gain an insight into the psyche of the deceased.
IHBAS may be roped in for the psychological investigation, though they are not part of the investigation at the moment.
While the Delhi Police has retrieved documents from the house, it has also accessed the call data records of the each of the 11 family members.
More than 100 people, who spoke to them, have already been questioned by the police in search of a breakthrough.
Desai said at least one of the members in the family (Lalit Bhatia, the younger brother) manifested symptoms of mental illness and deserved treatment.
But he was never treated possibly because the family members didn't recognise his mental illness.
The unfortunate incident also highlights the need to establish mental health services for the common man.
"The Burari incident is an eye opener and wake up call for the administration to create mental health services," said Desai.