One out of every two adults was mentally afflicted in the Kashmir valley in some way or other: MSF study

ISLAMABAD – Over half of the population of Kashmir was suffering from depression, claims Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) survey report which says that hundreds of stress disorder cases come to Kashmir hospitals daily.

The research, released last month, was done in collaboration with the Department of Psychology, Kashmir University, and the Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience.

The study says that nearly 1.8 million adults equaling 45 per cent of adult population suffers from mental distress in Kashmir valley and a majority of people have experienced or witnessed conflict-related trauma.

The depression is more prevalent among young men who are showing symptoms of headache, loss of memory and the desire to be left alone.

The survey covered 5428 households in 399 villages across all ten districts of the Kashmir Valley, and was complemented by a series of in-depth focus group discussions. The research summary underscores an urgent need to develop a comprehensive, integrated and decentralised mental health programme in the Kashmir Valley aiming at both prevention and treatment. The recommendations listed in the report call for expansion of mental healthcare services and increased sensitisation in the community for prevention and care of mental distress.

The ten districts where the survey was conducted are: Srinagar, Anantnag, Badgam, Baramulla, Pulwama, Kulgam, Kupwara, Ganderbal, Bandipore and Shopian.

Psychiatrist Arshid Hussain said, ‘We have found out multiple factors associated with it – one of them is definitely traumatic life events while economic reasons obviously play a part as well.’

43-year-old Ashiq Hussain frequently undergoes medical check-ups at a government medical health centre in Srinagar. Growing up during peak terrorism days in the nineties in Kashmir has taken a heavy toll on his mental health, triggering depression. He says his condition worsened during the 2014 floods which destroyed his house. He is worried about the upbringing of his two teenaged children – factors that have made him scared and delusional. Mr. Hussain said, ‘I feel very worried, I feel like I will die now, my heart starts sinking, my pulse rate increases.’

Doctors say conflict in the region is the main cause for depression cases in Kashmir – economic and social have worsened the crisis.