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Strife in Kashmir Drives Thousands to Psychiatric Wards

Any conflict situation inevitably gives rise to mental health disorders. Not many seem to have turned their attention to the deplorable situation in our own backyard.

Yes it is happening in Kashmir. A year-wise break-up of patients visiting the Government Psychiatric Hospital in capital Srinagar reveals that from a mere 775 people visiting the hospital in 1985, the number has soared up to 60,000 in the year 2006 alone.

In the first 10 years of the conflict, the number of patients at the Out Patient Department (OPD) of the valleys only government hospital for psychiatric diseases jumped from six per day in 1990 to 250-300 in 2000.

Seventy percent of the patients visiting the hospital are in the age group of 20 to 40. Of the people suffering from psychiatric disorders, 55 percent are women.

The commonest disorder is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) followed by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Psychiatrists say that that no PTSD case was reported in the Valley before 1989. PTSD was completely unrecognised in Kashmir till 1989 because the situation was peaceful, says Dr Arshad Hussain, a practising psychiatrist. Now, about 15-20 percent of patients visiting the hospitals OPD suffer from PTSD.

The figures available at the Psychiatric Hospital in Srinagar are just the tip of the iceberg. What about those who visit primary health centers and hospitals at the sub-district and district levels? asks Arajmand Hussain Talib, project manager at Action Aid International, Srinagar.

Shaheena from Bijbehara was brought to the psychiatric hospital in 2000, seven years after the incident that caused her her trauma. Her elder brother was among the 43 killed in Bijbehara on October 22, 1993, when bsf personnel opened fire on a procession demanding lifting of the siege on the Hazaratbal shrine in Srinagar. Before coming to the hospital, the doctors whom I approached used to tell me to give up worry
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