Violence affecting psychological health of Kashmiris, says NGO
26 December 2006
Srinagar: Holland-based NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said violence or its threat appears to have a large impact on the psychological health of people in the trouble-torn State. 'Violence (or the threat of physical or sexual violence) appears to have a large impact on the (J&K) population's psychological health. It leads to anxiety, fear, exhaustion and suicidal thoughts,' the MSF said in a report issued last month. The NGO said the failure of Health Ministry to implement its own mental health policy in Kashmir and many other parts of India contributes to increased and unnecessary suffering. In the absence of proper medication facility in all the areas, patients have to travel long distances to get treatment. The psychiatric hospital in Srinagar provides basic care where the number of patients is growing, it said. MSF urged the authorities to implement their own policies and provide psycho-social support including counselling in the villages with basic psychiatric support and medication. Witnessing violence The NGO said the people of Kashmir have been witnessing violence during the last decade, and this has had severe consequences. House raids, searches, round-ups, property damage and burning of homes have created an atmosphere of insecurity. Humiliations, threats, as well as physical and psychological abuse contribute to a profound feeling of lack of safety among the Kashmir population, it added. The MSF report is based on a survey conducted in 2005 on the impact of violence with Budgam and Kupwara districts as sample areas. The ongoing conflict- related events cause substantial suffering among the people. 'Once Kashmir was referred as 'Paradise on Earth'. Our findings show that for many Kashmiris, it has become rather a nightmare of constant fear that affects all areas of life,' the report posted on the website of the NGO said. Alarming impact Impact on physical and mental health and socio-economic functioning is alarming. Despair and lack of future prospects potentially endanger the long term well- being of many people, it said. Violations of human rights and infringement of civilian rights by all fighting parties continue, it added. 'A cessation of hostilities with a reduction in fear and intimidation will result in an immediate improvement of the population's physical health,' the report said. Quoting the survey, the report said the serious mental health situation is likely to further deteriorate due to the recent earthquake that devastated some districts. The mental health of the people must be given much greater attention. Almost half of the respondents said they felt occasionally or never safe, the survey said. A shocking finding is that torture appears to be widespread among those detained, legally or illegally. As many as 76.7 per cent of the respondents said they were tortured while they were in captivity. Just under half of those interviewed reported that they were unhappy to the extent that a substantial number of people interviewed admitted to having thoughts about ending their life (33.9 per cent).