Decoding Mass Suicide: What Leads People to Take the Final Step?

What is the psychology behind mass suicide and how should one address the topic when talking about it?

Updated
Mind It
2 min read

The death of 11 members of a family found hanging inside their home in Burari, Delhi, remains an unsolved mystery. While relatives and neighbours refute the police version that the deaths were a mass suicide, speculations are rife around this narrative.

Even if one remotely glances at the idea of a mass suicide, the morbidity of the whole situation raises several questions. Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, New Delhi, points out that a person has to be in a very vulnerable state for them to take such a drastic step.

Gullibility, Insecurity and Suicide

What kind of a mind-set leads a person to take such a drastic step? The most common is depression - when you start losing interest in life and feel gloomy and helpless. The worst possibility is the idea of hopelessness.
Dr Sameer Malhotra

When one talks of a mass suicide, especially one that might involve a cult, the suggestibility quotient of the individual, or in simpler, lay man terms - their gullibility and the ability to be influenced by others have a major role to play. Presence of any form of insecurity further amplifies these feelings, especially if there is promise of redemption and an end to all troubles, a possibility often promised by cults and groups.

When people have a sense of insecurity, are emotionally broken, going through depression or anxiety and are looking for some kind of support from the environment, if in such a situation they are convinced by someone that they have a quick remedy to their problems, people become very vulnerable.
Dr Sameer Malhotra

Approach the Topic With Sensitivity

Dr Malhotra adds that it’s important to approach such a topic with a lot of wariness and sensitivity and that it’s of utmost importance to not jump to conclusions based on mere speculation.

Our fascination with sensationalist headlines and news often suggests our own voyeurism, points out the doctor. This could eventually take form of “mass voyeurism” which needs to be curbed.

It’s also important to not circulate disturbing clippings or use words that can cause distress to vulnerable people.

“We should be very careful with the words and language when such news is shared on a public forum”, concludes Dr Malhotra.

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