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Trauma & Fear – The Kashmir Routine

Living in a disputed region comes with its own set of problems for the people living there. Living in a constant state of trauma and fear, each Kashmiri has a different tale to tell. The situation in the region has also taken a toll on the widespread mental health of its residents. One major reason for concern is the lack of treatment facilities for these individuals.

The lockdown since 5th August 2019, and several families affected by violence is forecasted to worsen the mental health conditions of the individuals who were already living suppressed. An old case of 2000 shows the level of trauma that families have faced and continue to face till date. Arifa Jan, a 49 year-old widow recalls the traumatic experience of watching her husband being shot down by soldiers in the year 2000 because of being a militant suspect.

“There were 18 bullet holes” and I still remember how deep they were”, says Arifa.

Even after two decades after the trauma, she still has frequent panic attacks. Her PTSD is being treated by psychiatrist, Mushtaq Margoob. He states that this is just one case out of the thousands who continue to suffer. In this state of lockdown, psychologists predict that mental health issues will rise and the unavailability of mental health help will worsen the condition. Furthermore, where in 1990, an NGO reported 432 cases of torture, in 30 years, the worsening situation would have definitely increased the number of torture cases, therefore, mental health problems as well.

In 2018, the UN Human Rights Office has researched on hundreds of cases of enforced disappearances, sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, and several other abuse forms that are not reported. Mental health services are mostly available in Srinagar’s Hospitals where the rural population cannot access the services. As a result, those who do consult psychiatrists and psychologists from areas other than Srinagar have long gaps during their treatment which makes it ineffective altogether. An acute shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists, along with this accessibility issue and no internet access to facilitate online mental health counselling has resulted in a situation to which there is no clear solution. Although since the lockdown in August 2019, the troops have decreased. However, there are frequent night raids, arrests and torture despite six months passed to the lockdown by India. The deterioration of mental health of the residents continue at a rapid rate.

With no end of this tunnel of violence, mental health experts emphasize more to be done for the mental health consequences of the fear and trauma, which are a routine for the people living in the area. Let’s pledge with us to do something for the mental health of the Kashmiris in the upcoming months.

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