IOJK Going through the Darkest Phase of a Mental Health Crisis

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Srinagar, October 11 (KMS): In Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the medical experts have said that after struggling through two consecutive sieges since August, 2019, the territory has been pushed to the limit in its mental health crisis.

The health experts said on 5th August 2019, when the Indian government unilaterally repealed the special status of IIOJK and imposed a strict military siege, it instilled distress among most of the residents, especially women and children.

“We are now going through the worst and the darkest phase of the mental health situation,” said a Kashmir-based doctor from at a govt-run hospital, who wished not to be named.

“There is an immense rise in the number of cases of depression, anxiety, stress, and trauma. Any doctor in Kashmir, whether a psychiatrist or not, will tell you the same.”

Dr Junaid Nabi, consultant psychiatrist at the Department of Psychiatry of Government Medical College in Kashmir, said: “For more than 30 years, the state of the mental health situation in Kashmir has been bad, but due to the back-to-back sieges, anxiety and distress increased massively.”

He added that psychiatric patients faced difficulties in accessing healthcare and medicine since last year and women and children were particularly hard hit.

“In our society, females are a part of the interdependent family structure,” he explains. “The closure of schools for so long led to anger issues among children and also parents. Among women, symptoms of depression and somatic symptom disorder are on the rise.”

Health officials say most people are not truthful about their experiences because of taboos.
“We see around 300-400 patients with depressive symptoms every day but due to stigma, most people do not seek help,” says Nabi.

Surveys conducted in Kashmir by various international organisations show that the territory had continuous human rights abuses, including killings, torture, blinding of youngsters, imprisonments, and everyday humiliation of citizens, leading to social and economic deterioration.

In 2015, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) concluded that 45 percent of the total population in the occupied territory has significant symptoms of mental distress. “Nearly half of all adults showed symptoms of mental distress. 41 percent…showed signs of depression, 26 percent showed signs of anxiety and 19 percent showed probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” according to its independent study.

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