Soumendu Mukherjee (name changed), a 38-year-old psychiatric patient from Beleghata, had decided to kill his ailing mother, wife and son before taking his own life, in the quest of a “better life” after death.
This was a month before Shibendu Saha killed his father, mother, brother, wife and two children before taking his own life, on Tollygunge Road.
Mukherjee had survived due to the “timely intervention” of city-based psychiatrist Prabir Pal, who convinced him to abort his plans. After month-long medication and counselling, Mukherjee has now ‘recovered’.
Call it what you will — organic brain disorder, paranoia or impulse control disorder — it adds up to the same thing and is enough to get psychiatrists in the city worried.
More and more patients, warn doctors, are on a “short fuse” and the bouts of rage often culminate in an urge to either destroy themselves or finish off their loved ones.
The violent streak lasts several hours, sometimes even stretching into one full day.
Sunita Kumar, a psychotherapist associated with Bhagirathi Neotia Woman and Child Care Centre, said: “Such cases are rising in Calcutta, and only prompt treatment by doctors can save them.”
With “nearly 20 per cent” of all psychiatric patients showing “violent symptoms”, psychiatrists and psychotherapists are being forced to take a closer look at the issue, especially after Shibendu’s killing spree through Saturday night.
“No one quite knows what went through his (Shibendu’s) mind when he wiped out his entire family, but this case should serve as an eye-opener for all of us,” says psychiatrist Ranadip Ghosh Roy.
Most of these patients, according to case studies available with the city’s medical experts, show “initial symptoms” that can be linked to Shibendu’s behaviour.
“These patients are short-tempered like Shibendu. They are perfectionists and want life to go along just the way they want. They cannot take life’s ups and downs like others and when they feel that they are on the brink, they can kill or commit suicide, as well,” added Pal.
The psychiatrist recently treated a patient — a Sodepur-based businessman — who was in debt and tried to kill himself and his family. No amount of reasoning could dissuade him, until a group of psychiatrists got together and persuaded him to be put on medication.
The causes of organic brain disorder can be many, from acute depression to hidden epilepsy, and they can trigger severely violent streaks.
“Hidden epilepsy manifests itself in the form of a pen or pencil falling from one’s hands or loss of consciousness for a few seconds. These are early symptoms of what could come next, in the form of sudden bursts of temper,” said Ghosh Roy.
“Such patients later develop suicidal tendencies. But there is no way one can know whether Shibendu was epileptic or not. All we can do is assume,” he admitted.