Danbury homicides show ‘crisis’ in mental health services

DANBURY — A local mother accused of killing her three children before taking her own life rocked the community last week and raises awareness of potential “stigma” around mental health treatment in the immigrant community.

Danbury Police say Sonia Loja, 36, killed her three children on July 27 before taking her own life. The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed that the children – Junior Panjon, 12, Joselyn Panjon, 10, and Jonael Panjon, 5 – died of strangulation and Loja died of hanging.

During a vigil at his home on Saturday, Pedro Panjon said his wife was devastated by the loss of income after being ordered in June to close his unlicensed daycare business. Panjon said his wife couldn’t get a daycare permit because the family didn’t have papers.

Emanuela Palmares, Danbury resident, immigrant community activist and vice president of the nonprofit New American Dream Foundation, said the tragedy underscores the need to raise awareness of mental health treatment resources available in the community.

“Ultimately, regardless of the events that led Sonia to commit the tragic action that she did, it’s fair to say that she wasn’t in peak mental health. And that’s really what we need to talk about – how can we work together to prevent it from happening again next time?” said Palmares, who came to the United States from Brazil when he was 10 years old.

In the immigrant community, Palmares said, there is a “stigma” when asking for help.

“We need to talk more about mental health in the Latino community and the immigrant community,” Palmares said. “There is a real crisis going on.

The community needs to “talk more openly about mental health and understand that if you’re an immigrant and you’re uninsured, the challenges you face are insurmountable compared to someone who’s not an immigrant and fully guaranteed,” she said.

Acquire help

The Connecticut Institute for Communities in Danbury is one of the mental health resources available to undocumented people. The federally licensed health center accepts all patients, regardless of ability to pay or insurance status.

The facility, which serves the greater Danbury area, provides medical, family dentistry, women’s health and behavioral health services, as well as many holistic support services such as nutrition counselling, financial aid and counseling. translation assistance.

Program manager Marlene Moranino said patients in crisis are referred to Nuvance Crisis Intervention and their mobile psychiatric emergency services for immediate assessment and intervention.

Behavioral health services are also offered at all school health centers in Danbury, Newtown and New Milford, where students can be referred immediately for services.

Moranino said about 50% of CIFC patients are served in a language other than English, with Spanish and Portuguese being the two most requested languages.

“We have bilingual suppliers and translation services to ensure we meet requests,” she said.

Grieving community

Since the deaths, members of the community have gathered at the family home on Whaley Street, where a memorial continues to grow. The deaths were particularly felt at St. Peter’s Catholic Church where two of Panjon’s oldest children attended religion classes.

Reverend Gregg Mecca, pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, said the parish family is “sorry that the lives of three of our children have been cut short. We mourn that they no longer experience the beautiful gift of life.

The church knew that Junior and Jocelyn Panjon were “charming children, respectful and good students. Pedro, the father, was supportive of their religious training,” Mecca said.

“Pedro’s life is shattered, and there are no words, no gestures that can fix it,” Mecca said. “As people of faith, we are convinced that Junior, Jocelyn, Jonael and Sonia are in the presence of God where there is no sadness. We pray for Pedro that God, who alone can heal the human heart, sustain him in his sorrow and distress.

The funeral of the four family members is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Danbury. Visitation will be held at the church from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday.

St. Peter’s Catholic Church has set up a funeral fund for the family. Contributions can be made on the church’s website.

About Evelyn C. Heim

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