12-August| IYD- Depression in Kashmir| TRS 001| #shorts

The Kashmir valley has been under political turmoil for decades which imposes an enduring psychological impact on the Kashmiri population.1 During the 30 years of insurgency, it has been estimated that more than 70,000 Kashmiri people lost their lives and more than 8000 people have been reported missing along with tortures, rapes, forced labor, and kidnappings due to the political turmoil.2 In addition, there has been a recent change in the status of Jammu Kashmir from state to union territory after the abrogation of Article 37 (2019) resulting in frequent curfews and lockdown. Furthermore, the current COVID-19 pandemic along with lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the disease has added further trauma to Kashmir. Preventive measures like social distancing can lead to increased loneliness and the feeling of being neglected, particularly for the elderly population, which can precipitate mental health issues.3

One study found that 45% of Kashmir’s adult population (1.8 million) was suffering from some form of mental distress. There is a high prevalence of depression (41%), anxiety (26%), post-traumatic stress disorder (19%), and 47% had experienced some sort of trauma.4 Another study found that the prevalence of childhood disorders was 22–27% (aged 8–14 years).5 A retrospective study on suicide recorded an increase of more than 250% in the number of suicide attempts between 1994 and 2012.6

According to the 2011 census of India, Jammu Kashmir has a population of around 12.5 million and there are about 41 psychiatrists, who are mostly affiliated at teaching hospitals in two cities of Jammu and Srinagar. Consequently, the mental health services are primarily limited to two hospitals in Srinagar (GMC Srinagar and SKIMS hospital), although the National Mental Health Plan and the District Mental Health Program were started in many districts of Kashmir.7 There are 140 indoor beds in 10 districts of Kashmir, and the outpatients services are provided by 16 psychiatrists, 12 psychologists, and one social worker.8 There are only 5–6 psychiatrists working as a consultant psychiatrist at the district level (Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama, Anatanag, Baramulah). Much of the psychiatric care is provided by a few practitioners on a private fee-for-service basis, thus limiting access for those unable to afford it.

There is an immediate need for the development of mental health services in Kashmir accompanied by community participation, awareness programs, and mental health rehabilitation services. Counseling services have to be available adequately for dealing with the enduring trauma. There is also an urgent need for researchers, clinicians, and policymakers for devising policies and interventions in the context of the prevailing mental health status of the Kashmiri population. We further suggest establishing a well-equipped telepsychiatric service system to deal with the mental health problems. This approach will boost the accessibility and affordability of mental health interventions with timely diagnosis and improve the follow-up for treatment.

Article information

Public Health. 2020 Oct; 187: 65–66.
Published online 2020 Sep 11. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2020.07.034
PMCID: PMC7484691
PMID: 32927290

Sheikh Shoib∗
Department of Psychiatry, Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial Hospital (JLNMH), Rainawari, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, 190003, India

S.M. Yasir Arafat
Department of Psychiatry, Enam Medical College and Hospital, Dhaka, 1340, Bangladesh
∗Corresponding author. Tel.: +919797197388.
Received 2020 Jul 16; Accepted 2020 Jul 23.
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