• A 23-year-old woman and her 3-year-old son took their own lives by consuming cow dung powder 
  • The pair and three other family members decided to kill themselves after the 23-year-old woman tested positive for COVID-19
  • The other family members survived, and police are investigating the deaths

A 23-year-old woman and her toddler son died in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu over the weekend after they and several other family members poisoned themselves due to fear of COVID-19.

At least five people residing in the city of Madurai — identified as 46-year-old Lakshmi, her children Jothika, 23, Adhi, 16, Sibiraj, 13, as well as Jothika's 3-year-old son Ritish — attempted to take their own lives Saturday by consuming cow dung powder, The Times of India reported.

The group consumed the poison after Jothika tested positive for COVID-19 earlier that day, which had caused them to fear that it would affect other family members and impact their livelihood, according to the newspaper.

Lakshmi’s husband Nagaraj had died of natural causes last month, and the family was unable to cope with the loss. They went into depression, and Lakshmi in particular was distressed over their future. Jothika was married but had been living with her parents after separating from her husband.

Neighbors alerted authorities after they noticed no one had come out of the family's home Sunday. Responding police officers later found that Jothika and her son had died.

Lakshmi and Sibiraj survived and were admitted to Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH), where their conditions are currently stable. Adhi, meanwhile, was safe as he reportedly did not take the poison properly.

The bodies of the deceased have been sent to GRH for postmortem examinations.

Police in Silaiman have registered a case under Section 174 of India's Code Of Criminal Procedure, and an investigation into the deaths has been launched.

India has reported a total of 35,875,790 COVID-19 cases and 484,213 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began, according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University.

Families taking their own lives amid the pandemic has become a "concern" for officials. Karnataka state's Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said in a statement back in October 2021 that suicide was not a solution to any temporary problem.

"[Suicide] is a matter of concern for everyone. We need to stop people from committing suicide due to stress and various other reasons... society and the government should think over it," Bommai was quoted as saying.

"People have to come together to help each other in difficult times," the chief minister added.

India's health officials have urged the public not to panic as all the necessary treatments for the virus would be provided free of charge at government facilities, according to The Times of India.

If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours, every day.

Representation. Police in the Indian city of Madurai found 23-year-old Jothika as well as her 3-year-old son, Ritish, dead, after they and three other family members consumed cow dung powder last Saturday. Pixabay