(Trigger Warning: Mentions of suicide. If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs.)
Three members of an Indian American family were found dead in their home in Ohio's Dublin on Wednesday, 18 January, of suspected murder-suicide.
How were they found? The Dublin Police said that they visited the family's home on Balfoure Circle at around 2 am on Wednesday for a "well-being check" after a friend of one of the residents reported that he had not heard from them.
What did the police say? Based on the initial investigation, the police said that the family members appeared to have been killed by a firearm and had been dead for several days.
They also suspected that they died due to murder-suicide, which involved a double homicide and a death by suicide. Further, no signs of forced entry were found.
In a statement, the police said that they were attempting to reach out to the next of kin of the victims. They also said that there is no ongoing threat to the public with regard to the incident.
Who are the victims? The deceased were identified as a married couple – 54-year-old Rajan Rajaram and 51-year-old Santhalatha Rajan, and their son Anish Rajan Rajaram, 19.
The family had been living in the house since 1998, according to the Franklin County Auditor's office.
Rajan Rajaram used to work as an engineer at a Cincinnati-based company called Technosoft Corporation, while his son Anish had recently enrolled in Miami University as a sophomore after graduating from Dublin Coffman High School in May 2021. Santhalatha Rajan was reportedly a housemaker.
Condoling Anish's death, Miami University put out a statement, saying, "We are devastated by this loss of life. Our hearts go out to Anish’s family, friends, and all who knew him."
Ally Zimmerman, one of Anish's teachers from Dublin Coffman High School, remembered him as a "small" and "quiet kid" who used to work very hard.
"He excelled and stood out as a leader and went on to do cool things at the school and beyond," she was quoted as saying by The Columbia Dispatch.
Community On Edge After 3rd Such Incident This Month
This marks the third violent incident in January involving an Indian American family. Earlier, the police had arrested a man named Dharmesh Patel for deliberately driving his car off a cliff in California with his wife and child inside. In another incident, a man from Houston named Subramaniam Ponnazhakan had stabbed his 9-year-old son.
The latest occurrence in Ohio has triggered widespread panic among the Indian American community, which was already on edge due to the shocking and unprecedented violence within families.
Japneet Singh, a former candidate for the New York State Senate, said, "Depression is real, addiction is real, suicidal thoughts are real. Your mental health is important."
Singh has for long been an advocate of mental health awareness and has been organising rallies in and around Queens to spread the word.
'We Immigrants Always Feel Lonely at Some Level'
Ohio resident Rajni Mehra, who got to know about the family's death through a WhatsApp forward, said she was shocked by the incident.
"This happened in my city. Dublin is a small, peaceful city. It shakes you to know that people may be fighting personal battles," she was quoted as saying by American Bazaar.
Homemaker Rachna Bhasin also shed light on the lack of mental health awareness among the Indian American community, saying that there was a dire need of a counselling service for community members.
"We are all immigrants and truth be told we all feel lonely at a certain level," she said, adding, "Lack of any trustworthy sources to seek help in case of depression and little or no emphasis on mental well-being can have negative impacts."
Neeraj Sharma from Houston said that never before had there been so many violent cases in such a short duration.
"Why is it that we are suddenly seeing a spike in such cases?" he asked, citing an incident from last year when a Sikh woman died by suicide in New York after being physically and mentally tortured by her husband for years.
"Indians are doing so much in IT, medicine and STEM fields but what about social and emotional well-being issues? Are we too burnt out or have we kept the problems under the carpet for far too long?"Neeraj Sharma
He also requested mental health practitioners to volunteer and create awareness among the community. "We need psychological help," he asserted.
(With inputs from American Bazaar and The Columbia Dispatch.)