Many of us, who may have watched the recently launched Netflix mini series: House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths, which is about 11 deaths that completely wiped off an entire family, would be wondering, what actually happened to that family? Did they die due to a mystical/religious ritual? Were they deluded? Were they in a cult? Many such intriguing questions may have occurred in your mind if you have watched the mini series.
The show itself does a commendable job in explaining the case of 11 sudden deaths. The death of a highly-functioning, abled and progressive family.
If you haven’t watched the series yet, you can read this review by ‘Heaven of Horror’!
However, what is the real reason behind their deaths?
The psychological autopsy of the deaths reveals that one of the family members, Lalit Chundawat, who was the youngest son of the deceased father, had suffered from immense trauma in the past, and his father’s death impacted him deeply.
Psychological Autopsy is a Reconstructive Mental State Evaluation (RMSE), with the main objective of understanding the mental state of the deceased at the time of the death or around that time. A psychological autopsy helps in revealing the nature of the death, whether it was a suicide, or murder, or accidental death.
The Forensic Lab report terms the death of these family members as ‘Accidental Death’.
Many psychologists explain the cause of these deaths as Shared Psychosis Disorder. Shared psychotic disorder (folie à deux) is a rare disorder characterized by sharing a delusion among two or more people in a close relationship (Saif & Khalili, 2021).
Psychosis is a condition which affects the way you hear, see and feel things. It is a loss of contact with reality, and involves hallucinations and delusions. A psychotic person may start seeing things which are not real, hearing voices or sounds which are not real and smelling odours and fragrances which are not real.
Symptoms of Brief Psychosis Disorder
According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), criteria for Brief Psychosis Disorder is (the patient must have one or more of the following symptoms):
- Hallucinations- The person sees, smells, tastes or feels things which are not real.
- Delusions- The person has strongly held false beliefs which are detrimental to his/her normal functioning
- Disorganised Speech- The person fails to create a connection between his/her sentences, jumps from one topic to another unexpectedly, and their speech cannot be comprehended by other people.
- Catatonic Behaviour- The inability to move normally, behaviour which is abnormal overtly.
In this specific case of 11 deaths, one member (Lalit) heard his deceased father’s voices. More specifically, these voices were instructions about how the family should conduct their behaviour, their routine etc. which will apparently lead to success and eventually unity with god.
This belief of Lalit’s spread to other family members, wherein they abide by the rules and regulations given by Lalit, which were apparently told to him by his dead father.
This horrific case of how a mental disorder, caused due to trauma highlights the negligible state of post traumatic stress counseling in India, which raises questions about the overall mental health condition of the population as a whole, given the vast portion of it having gone through some type of trauma during their lifetime.
This case should be a wake up call for everyone to give mental health and psychoeducation the due importance and urgency it very much deserves, from an early age.
Al Saif F, Al Khalili Y. Shared Psychotic Disorder. [Updated 2021 Aug 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021.
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
Karina, 2021. House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths – Netflix Review- https://www.heavenofhorror.com/reviews/house-of-secrets-the-burari-deaths-netflix/
India, P. T. of. (2018, September 15). “Burari deaths not suicide but accident”: Forensic lab report. NDTV.com. Retrieved October 22, 2021, from https://www.ndtv.com/delhi-news/delhis-burari-deaths-not-suicide-but-an-accident-psychological-autopsy-report-1916739.
Press Trust of India. (2018, September 14). Burari family’s psychological autopsy report released..s Delhi Police’s theory of self-sacrifice to attain god. Firstpost.