Kashmir's Scarred Mental Health Needs More Attention: ActionAid30 October 2011
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: The ongoing Kashmir conflict led to serious psychological problems in Kashmir as traditional mechanisms are crumbling and mental hospital care becoming inaccessible, according to latest report released by Action Aid, an NGO, in Srinagar on Saturday. 'Sense of insecurity, exposure to sufferings, abuses, instigation to and participation in violence, choked atmosphere that blocks avenues of expression, humiliations, torture, death of those in proximity, rape, feeling for revenge, tragedies, break down of family structures and traditional mechanisms of care remain some of the causes which are indispensible consequences of conflict situations,' says the report. According to the report, traditional mechanisms of care crumbled in various ways as mosques got closed for sheltering everyone including persons facing psychological problems. 'Health care system faced paucity of man power, whatever care existed in the form of mental hospital Srinagar became inaccessible on account of hazards involved in travel and stay in Srinagar. On top of it psychologically disordered persons became vulnerable targets in encounters,' said the report on a 'Research study on status of implementation of provisions on National Mental Health act in J&K'. The research was commissioned by ActionAid and conducted by Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain. 'The present work is an attempt to identify the legal framework for care, treatment and rehabilitation of people facing psychological problems as provided by Mental Health Act of 1987 and ascertain its implementation in Kashmir,' said Shoeab Afra, project manager, ActionAid International-India. According to the report, Mental Health Act of 1987, made it obligatory for the state to create a mechanism for licensing and monitoring mental health care facilities. 'The state has created such authority but it remains non functional because there are no recognized Mental Health Care facilities in private state sector, whatever exists is unlicensed as no license has ever been issued by the authority. The facilities are supposed to be monitored by Mental Health Authority,' it said. The report points out that there is no such monitoring apart from the main Govt Psychiatric Hospital. 'There are OPD facilities within psychiatric hospital in Srinagar. However no such facilities are available at primary or secondary health care in the valley. The procedures relating to admission of patient within mental hospital are observed but the requirements of the Act relating to security of their property and providing them legal aid are not taken care of. The Act provides for penalties to those who admit a normal person into psychiatric care. There are no reports about implementation of this aspect,' it said. The ActionAid report lamented that no records have been provided by the police relating to this aspect of duties. 'The psychiatrists appointed in other hospitals are not exclusively utilized for mental health care. They are made to work as general medical practitioners. Wherever they are involved in psychiatric care, it is through their individual initiative. Most of the positions for psychiatrists in the valley are unfulfilled,' it said. According to the report, there is a high incidence of psychiatric disorders among those who are in jails and other detection centers. 'The reason for high incidence of persons with psychological disorders in jails can have two reasons either the ones getting involved in crimes suffer from psychological disorders or these disorders overtake them once they are lodged in jails,' it said.