A mental health survey was conducted in 2015 in Kashmir by Doctors without Borders (MSF) in collaboration with the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS), Srinagar.
The study revealed that the mental health crisis has reached the proportions of an epidemic in Kashmir. Researchers claim that 1.6 million adults expressed the signs of depression, significantly followed by 1 million population suffering from the symptoms of anxiety, whereas 93% of Kashmiris have experienced trauma related to conflict and 19% of the adult population displayed PTSD symptoms (SYED S, 2019).
Mental health issues have become very common in a conflict region like Kashmir and have been normalized by the people and the political cum societal systems. These mental health issues have a direct impact on people’s physical health and their social well-being as well.
Kashmir has the availability of a very limited number of mental health professionals and the number is not sufficient to address the mental health issues of such a large population.
There are not many NGOs/CSOs that focus on mental health well-being in the valley. Communication blackouts such as lack of proper internet connectivity, network, etc. have made the options of access to online counselling and tele-counselling not easily accessible for Kashmiris. Though steps are being taken to conduct awareness programmes on mental health, they are carried out mostly by non-professionals without any professional guidance.
Schools are shut due to prolonged lockdown and children find it very difficult to access education online, with 2G internet. Teachers are not always available to teach children online or over a call. Kashmiri children are facing a huge struggle in accessing proper education, which is their basic right.
Children from lower socio-economic strata who do not have access to smartphones in their households and who cannot afford a home tutor are the most affected. Children’s mental health is at stake.
Men are losing business while families are facing a lot of financial difficulties. Women’s mental health has taken a huge toll. They are unable to address the mental burden outside their families due to decreased socialisation with their community members. All of these are leading to a huge mental health crisis for Kashmiri men, children, women and families.
The concepts and techniques of community mental health and group sessions/ work which can yield better results in terms of addressing the psychosocial needs of the huge population on a community level are far from the possibilities of implementation in Kashmir due to its constant political tension and lockdown.
1. The need for more mental health professionals in Kashmir has to be addressed through the employment of psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, psychiatric nurses, etc. by the government.
2. Immense work towards better mental health for the people of Kashmir can be addressed by NGOs and CSOs.
3. Importance of Mental health and understanding mental health should be a compulsory part of the education/curriculum in schools.
4. Women, men and children should have equal access to mental health care facilities without any bias.
5. In possible cases, more community mental health workers can be mobilized and trained on counselling skills and referral paths by the government or the CSOs.
6. More research studies can be conducted on this matter focusing on a specific gender, age groups, geographical location, etc. to get a clear picture on the areas of focus on improving mental health.
7. Steps can be taken by the government to enhance the internet and network facilities for people to access online counselling or tele-counselling.
People in Kashmir have lost expectation and hope in life due to political tension, deaths, violence and lack of proper mental health. Poor mental health conditions have been accepted and normalized in Kashmir, which has to be addressed.
Equal access and the right to make choices and decisions just like their fellow citizens of other states, somewhere can help in the improvement of mental health conditions.
Author: C.P. SHOBA
Source Omar Hafiz & Naziya Wahid.
After Article 370: Kashmir’s mental health time bomb. “After Article 370: Kashmir’s Mental Health Time Bomb.” Accessed May 20, 2020.