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“Women Are Known To Exhibit High Vulnerability For PTSD In Comparison To Men”

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Avni Gupta contemplates the impact of traumatic or stressful situations in one’s life. Many of us face severe stress such as injury, loss of close ones, violence, accidents, natural disasters, or assault experiences. These events often leave the individual with a pathological anxiety disorder, termed as “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder”, shortened to PTSD.

Take, for instance, an occurrence of a car accident. Due to the incident, it is possible for the driver, passenger, or even the witness to develop PTSD.

Numerous traumatic events are generally classified as interpersonal (such as sexual violence and physical abuse) and non-interpersonal traumas (e.g., natural disasters and road accidents) and their consequences.

Several studies have reported higher rates and more severe PTSD symptoms in those who have suffered interpersonal trauma compared to those who have faced non-interpersonal trauma.

Different groups of people experience differences in the manifestation of symptoms of PTSD. The prevalence of the disorder varies with age and gender, besides culture. Extremes of the age spectrum are more vulnerable to PTSD development.

Women are known to exhibit high vulnerability for PTSD in comparison to men. Psychological distress is more commonly reported from developing countries as a person’s reaction to trauma, and coping strategies are influenced by their culture, religious affiliations, and spiritual orientation.

Source: Psyche, PLLC

Symptoms Of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD may trigger as a result of physical or psychological harm to a person. Symptoms are known to develop not just when a person is directly involved in the situation, but even if they were a witness or learnt about it through someone. Not just victims but relatives of patients admitted in ICU have also been recorded to suffer from PTSD.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, symptoms could be shaped as follows:

  • Re-experiencing: Recurrent recollections of the event in dreams or intrusive memories lead to experiencing the incident over and over again. Cues that resemble the traumatic accident may also trigger reactions and cause prolonged distress.
  • Avoidance: A person who has PTSD may fear or avoid certain people, places, thoughts, feelings, or activities that are associated with the event.
  • Mood alterations: Negative changes in emotions and beliefs may follow the incident. One may end up blaming themselves for the happenings. Moreover, they may detach from others, lose interest, hold exaggerated negative thoughts and emotions.
  • Hyperarousal: Agitation, constant wakefulness and alertness are also commonly observed in those experiencing PTSD. They may be startled easily, act aggressively, and reckless. Such individuals often face disturbance while sleeping and difficulty in concentrating.

For example, a person who met with a car accident avoids a particular road while driving next time. They may eventually avoid driving altogether. They may avoid conversations and exhibit discomfort when someone tries to talk about it. After weeks or months, they may still be haunted by the memory or dreams of the incident.

Source: Verywell Mind

Evolution Of PTSD

Researchers have found the earliest account of PTSD symptoms in the epic Ramayana, written by the great Indian sage Maharishi Valmiki, about 5,000 years ago. Maricha, a cousin brother of Ravana, was described to exhibit symptoms like hyperarousal, re-experiencing, and avoidance, after being hurt by Lord Rama’s arrow. However, the term PTSD was nowhere used.

The diagnostic category of PTSD was first proposed for the soldiers of the United States in the Vietnam war. Although commonly used in war situations, the concept of traumatic stress has changed over time.

PTSD is now associated with natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones, tsunami, and fire disasters, and human-made disasters like riots, community violence, and terrorism, besides domestic violence, accidents, injuries, and diseases. Odisha supercyclone (1999), Gujarat earthquake (2001), and Bihar flood (2008) are amongst the many disasters which are known to manifest psychiatric aspects in affected people.

Lockdown & PTSD

Nationwide lockdown due to coronavirus has been of assistance in preventing pandemic peak but has adversely impacted people’s mental health. The Department of Community Medicine, Vardhman Mahavir Medical College, and Safdarjung Hospital conducted an online survey to identify the prevalence of PTSD during the lockdown. The survey indicated that 28.2% of the participatory population suffered from PTSD in India.

Out of more than 230 respondents, 82% claimed to have physical reactions during the lockdown, such as sweating, troubled breathing, or nausea. 64% of the respondents reported the feeling of easy agitation and startling, while 56% claimed to have difficulty sleeping.

Therapy’s The Solution

Psychopharmacology and psychotherapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy, supportive psychotherapy, eye movement desensitization, and reprocessing, are used to treat PTSD in Indian settings. Along with allopathic therapies, some also hold strong beliefs in indigenous therapies, which are perceived as more natural.

Ayurveda and yoga therapies are two major indigenous therapies practised in India. Herbal medicines, dietary restrictions, and physical exercises help in restoring the balance between mind and body.

Written by: Avni Gupta
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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