For 93% adults, most traumatic event is related to conflict: MSF
Ninety-three percent of Kashmiri adults have described conflict-related trauma as most traumatic events of their lifetime, a study of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said.
‘Muntazar: Kashmir Mental Health Survey’, a study conducted in all 10 districts of the Kashmir Valley by MSF (Doctors Without Borders) reveals that on an average, an adult living in the Kashmir valley had witnessed or experienced 7.7 traumatic events during their lifetime.
Kashmir has been witnessing an armed conflict for the past 27 years, resulting in thousands of traumatic experiences and agony for the people who have watched their family members being killed in front of their eyes.
The 101-page detailed MSF study said the most common traumatic events experienced by adult Kashmiris were natural disasters (94 percent) closely followed by conflict-related trauma (93 percent), death of a loved one (71 percent) and a life trauma including life-threatening accidents and illness (76 percent).
The study conducted by MSF in collaboration with the University of Kashmir’s Department of Psychology and the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHNS), Kashmir between October and December 2015 across 399 villages in 10 districts of Kashmir region, points that 73 percent men and 52 percent women had experienced or witnessed more than six traumatic events during their lifetime.
The high percentage of traumatised population in Kashmir is a result of protracted conflict in the region which has led to the killings of over 70,000 people, custodial and enforced disappearances of 10,000 persons besides a number of other problems like highest youth unemployment rate across India, lack of private investment in the industry, resulting in an under-developed employment market, fractured and undependable tourist industry, uncertainty about future and breakdown of socio-cultural support systems.
The MSF study carried probability sampling to randomly select 5600 households from 399 villages across 10 districts of Kashmir valley.
The study also showed that nearly 18 lakh adults (45 percent) in Kashmir valley were experiencing symptoms of mental distress, another 16 lakh adults (41 percent) exhibiting signs of probable depression, around 10 lakh adults (26 percent) suffering from probable anxiety and 7.71 lakh adults (19 percent) living with significant PTSD symptoms, 4.15 lakh (10 percent) meeting all the diagnostic criteria for severe depression and 2.48 lakh (6 percent) meeting the diagnostic criteria for PTSD.
The north Kashmir district of Baramulla and central Kashmir district of Budgam reported the highest prevalence rates of symptoms for all three mental disorders.
The MSF study also reveals that 62 percent of Kashmiri adults report regularly experiencing headaches, 47 percent report heart palpitations, 61 percent report excessive worrying, 64 percent report about feeling low in energy, 65 percent report feeling irritable and having outbursts of anger, 52 percent report having difficulty concentrating while Suicidal ideation was reported by 12 percent of Kashmiri adults and 94 percent were classified as a probable case for at least one of the three disorders.
The study points out that the most commonly reported coping strategies were prayer, talking to a friend or family member, trying to keep busy, social isolation and going for a walk.
However, one in five men reported using tobacco as a coping strategy.
The MSF study reveals that mental distress is higher among Kashmiri women than men and over 11 percent of Kashmiri adults were taking benzodiazepines while 29 percent were using tobacco.
The study has recommended decentralisation and strengthening of mental health services across Kashmir.