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Importance of knowledge about mental illness

‘Families are the people we share our values, believes and early experiences which eventually shape the ways we perceive ourselves and the world around us’

In the summer of 2018, 11 people between the ages of fifteen and eighty years from three generations were found hanging from the ceiling inside their home in the Indian city of Delhi. They were handcuffed, mouths gagged and blindfolded.

The police were confused as there was no sign of break in. It wasn’t until they found a diary of one of the sons, in which he mentioned that the middle brother ‘Lalit’ told the family that he saw in his dreams their dead grandfather telling him that he ‘the dead grandfather’ will come back to life and reincarnate Lalit’s body and that everyone should obey him and follow his orders.

Lalit began to speak in the grandfather’s voice and call his grandmother in her first name as if he was her husband, and he began to dictate to them some rituals and prayers, which they had to follow to purify their souls.

The family began carrying out the rituals for seven days that ended with the hanging. Apparently ‘Lalit’ convinced them that the grandfather would come back to life, untie them and save them from death.

The police concluded that the family members died voluntarily without the slightest resistance while watching ‘Lalit’ hanging them who then hanged himself. This incident indicates the importance of knowledge of mental illness which can impact the person and those around him or her.

Families are the people we are brought up with and with whom we share many values and experiences that shape our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. As there are good families that empower their members and instill in them good values, there are families that are fueled with envy, neglect and lack of appreciation.

Families are often united against the outside world, sometimes to keep their identities and values or because of their belief that others are bad or not trustworthy.

What happened to the family from India mentioned before is an example how family belief can have dangerous consequences.

According to Indian psychiatrist who analysed the case, the brother ‘Lalit’ had a mental health condition called delusional disorder, where he was convinced that the dead grandfather would come back from the dead to untie the 11 members of the family and free them in the last minute.

Because of other shared values in that family such as they believe that they should obey the dead grandfather who has taken over the body of ‘Lalit’ without questioning, they accepted his deadly behaviour without any struggle.

In modern psychology, the term ‘dysfunctional family describes a family with multiple conflicts such as sibling rivalries, parent-child conflicts, domestic violence, addiction to alcohol or drug abuse. People in such families have inappropriate boundaries when dealing with each other, sometimes placing extremely high and unobtainable expectation which eventually leads to frustration, low self-esteem and sometimes alcohol and drug abuse.

So, how can you survive such family?

Psychologist advice that the first step is to acknowledge that dealing with the situation would not be easy so learn to set boundaries and use assertive communication where you tell the other person that you do not like their interference or destructive comments.

Keep calm and remember that sometimes you will not be able to change your family’s behaviour especially when they refuse to admit their destructive nature. Remember that you cannot please everybody so whatever you do, think before you speak and be civil and polite.


The writer is a senior consultant psychiatrist at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital

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