One In Every Five Adults In Kashmir Is Living With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Kashmir has long been a festering wound in the Indian sub-continent. But, while nations, politicians, and patriots on both sides of the border fight over the lines drawn on a map, the inhabitants of the valley are caught in the crossfire and bear the brunt of a prolonged violent conflict, only interrupted with brief periods of calm. Most of us are aware of the toll on our troops and civilians in terms of fatalities and injuries, but we remain oblivious to the psychological scars of such conflicts. Mental health disorders are just as damaging, if not more, to quality of life as physical ailments, and a study published earlier this year, in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, helps shed some light on the mental health status of Kashmiris.

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High Prevalence Of Mental Illness In Kashmir

“41 percent of Kashmir’s population suffers from depression, while 19 percent are afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD”

Researchers estimate that the lifetime prevalence of traumatic experience among inhabitants in Kashmir is as high as 58.69 percent! This basically means that half of Kashmir’s population is mentally disturbed, which should be no surprise to psychologists as the region has experienced violent conflict for decades. A mental health survey by Medecines Sans Frontiers (MSF) also found that 41 percent of the population suffers from depression, while 19 percent are afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. PTSD is a serious psychiatric condition that often develops as a result of traumatic events such as violent conflict, accidents, and disasters.

PTSD can be debilitating to many as it causes problems in every aspect of life, including family and work relationships because the individual suffers a breakdown of trust and communication and is also likely to experience difficulty with problem solving, concentration, sleeplessness, nightmares, emotional disconnect, depression, and anxiety, among other problems. People afflicted with the condition are psychologically scarred and remain severely depressed even months or years after the trauma has passed. While there are many who recover from traumatic events, prolonged exposure to violence increases the risk of PTSD, especially in children. Studies have also shown that siblings of PTSD patients are more vulnerable to depression and PTSD.

Mental Health In The Armed Forces

“Studies on mental health of soldiers in the Indian army have been few and inadequate, but reports point to a rise in suicidal and fratricidal incidents”

Although India has not engaged in any hot wars over the past decade, counter-insurgency operations in conflict regions, especially in Kashmir, can greatly exacerbate stress levels, which are already found to be high because of various occupational stressors like ineffective leadership, unsupportive colleagues, inadequate training, and work load. Moreover, morale suffers when armed forces are also faced with a hostile populace, as is often the case in the region. Studies on mental health of soldiers in the Indian army have been few and inadequate, but reports point to a rise in suicidal and fratricidal incidents, which are indicative of mental health problems. In the period of 2010 to 2012, there were 368 suicides among Indian defense personnel.

The Indian Army has taken steps to remedy the situation by recruiting psychiatrists within the force and by setting up recuperation centers that include stress-busting therapies. In addition, meditation and yoga techniques for stress relief have also been highly effective in coping with stress. However, such stress reduction initiatives need to be broadened and made part of the supportive organizational culture to yield significant results.

With the current escalation of tensions in the region, it looks like mental health problems in the valley will only drag on, affecting both Kashmiri civilians and defense personnel. According to experts, mass counseling camps and psychosocial support systems are vital for Kashmir and even these may not suffice until the situation changes.

References:

Mushtaq, Raheel, Tabindah Shah, and Sahil Mushtaq. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children of Conflict Region of Kashmir (India): A Review.”Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR 10.1 (2016): VE01–VE03.PMC. Web. 7 Oct. 2016.

Sakshi Sharma, Occupational stress in the armed forces: An Indian army perspective, IIMB Management Review, Volume 27, Issue 3, September 2015, Pages 185-195, ISSN 0970-3896, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.iimb.2015.06.002.

Col S S Cheema1& Col D S Grewal. “Meditation for Stress Reduction in Indian Army- An Experimental Study.” IOSR Journal of Business and Management 10.2 (2013): 27-37. Web. 7 Oct. 2016.

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