Activist: Danbury mom killing kids, self shows mental health services ‘crisis’ in immigrant community

DANBURY — A local mother killing her three children before taking her own life has shaken the community in the past week and is raising awareness to a potential “stigma” around mental health treatment in the immigrant community.

Danbury police said Sonia Loja, 36, killed her three children July 27 before killing herself. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed the children — Junior Panjon, 12, Joselyn Panjon, 10, and Jonael Panjon, 5 — died by strangulation and Loja died by hanging.

At a vigil at his home Saturday, Pedro Panjon said his wife was distraught over the loss of income after she was ordered in June to close her unlicensed day care business. Panjon said his wife was unable to get a day care license because the family is undocumented.

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

“At the end of the day, no matter what events led Sonia to take the tragic action that she did, it’s fair to say that she was not at her optimal mental health. And that’s really what we need to be talking about — how do we somehow work together to prevent this from happening the next time around?” said Palmares, who came to the U.S. from Brazil at the age of 10.

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 immigrant community,” Palmares said. “There’s a real crisis going on.”

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

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