SUICIDE SYNDROME

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 Killings put counselors on alert about money woes
Oct 7, 09:07 PM
EDT
By CHRISTINA HOAG – Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mental health counselors were on the alert Tuesday for
calls from people depressed or possibly

suicidal about money woes, after an unemployed financial manager killed five
family members and himself.

The widely publicized tragedy, which unfolded Monday after worried friends
summoned police to the family’s San

Fernando Valley home, may spur an influx of calls to suicide prevention and
crisis hot lines from people in similar

financial straits, or even other suicides, said Marvin J. Southard, director
of the Los Angeles County Department of

Mental Health.

"One of the things we’re afraid of is these things sometimes lead to a
copycat phenomenon," Southard said. "This

didn’t come out of the blue. Everybody’s been affected by the economic crisis
in some way."

The department on Tuesday dispatched crisis response teams to counsel
relatives, friends and neighbors of Karthik

Rajaram’s family, who were found shot to death Monday morning in their home
in an upscale gated community in

Porter Ranch.

Rajaram, 45, left a suicide note to police saying he was in financial trouble
and contemplated killing just himself. But

he said he decided to kill his five family members then himself because that
was more honorable, police said.

Rajaram, who had master’s of business administration degree in finance, once
worked for a major accounting firm

and for Sony Pictures, and he had been part-owner of a financial holding
company. But he had been out of work for

several months, police said.

Men can be particularly affected if they lose their job or investments
because their identity tends to be tied to being a

good family provider, said Long Beach clinical psychologist Jana Martin.

However, a recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that
women reported higher stress levels

over money problems because they often manage the family checkbook, Martin
added.

The Rajaram case fits into the "family annihilator" pattern of suicide, said
John Sugarmann, executive director of the

Violence Policy Center in Washington D.C.

In that scenario, a person, usually the father, is so overwhelmed by events
beyond his control that he decides his

family is better off dead than being left to cope with the problems if he
only kills himself.

"Oftentimes it is financially related," Sugarmann said. "This is not an
uncommon scenario."

Police say Rajaram used a gun he purchased last month to shoot his
39-year-old wife, three sons aged 7, 12 and 19,

and his 69-year-old mother-in-law.

All appeared to have been shot in their beds and did not try to run away,
Detective John Doerbecker said on Tuesday.

Investigators ordered toxicology reports to determine whether Rajaram drugged
his family before shooting them.

"There has to be an explanation for their remaining," Doerbecker said. He
said he suspected Rajaram shot his wife

first, then the children.

Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Michel Moore described the scene as having a
"terrible impact" on responders and

crisis teams were sent Tuesday to talk with the professionals who witnessed
the carnage.

The Los Angeles Unified School District sent counselors to the schools the
two younger children attended.

Moore urged people who spot signs of depression in family and friends to seek
help as soon as possible to prevent

such tragedies.

"Even if the individuals themselves don’t reach out for that assistance, we
would ask that people intervene," Moore

said.

Psychologists urge people in financial straits not to panic but to consider
how they have weathered tough times

before and to look at the concrete steps they can take to find a new job or
place to live, Martin said.

Associated Press writers Thomas Watkins and Jacob Adelman contributed to this
report.

 

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