After struggling through two consecutive lockdowns since last year, Indian-administered Kashmir has been pushed to the limit in its mental health crisis, health officials warned on World Mental Health Day.
On 5 August 2019, when New Delhi unilaterally removed the disputed region’s partial autonomy and imposed a strict military and communication lockdown, the months-long siege instilled distress among most of the residents, especially women and children.
“We are now going through the worst and the darkest phase of the mental health situation,” said a Kashmir-based doctor from at a state-run hospital, who wished not to be named.
“There is an immense rise in the number of cases of depression, anxiety, stress, and trauma. Any doctor in Kashmir, whether a psychiatrist or not, will tell you the same.”
Women and children
About eight million people in Kashmir have lived through the consecutive lockdowns.
Dr Junaid Nabi, consultant psychiatrist at the Department of Psychiatry of Government Medical College in Kashmir said: “For more than 30 years, the state of the mental health situation in Kashmir has been bad, but due to the back-to-back lockdowns, anxiety and distress increased massively.”
Nabi said psychiatric patients faced difficulties in accessing healthcare and medicine since last year. And women and children were particularly hard hit.
“In our society, females are a part of the interdependent family structure,” he explains. “The closure of schools for so long led to anger issues among children and also parents. Among women, symptoms of depression and somatic symptom disorder are on the rise.”