“I can’t sleep. My heart is heavy and my head hurts,” complains Supra Paul from Thailand.
Paul was imprisoned two years ago on charges of drug trafficking. She desperately wants return to her home country and suffers from bouts of depression.
Forty-five per cent of women inmates at Tihar Jail suffer from stress-induced hypertension and 10 per cent from clinical depression.
But Tihar, which houses the largest number of women prisoners in the country, has no psychologist.
It is a been several weeks since Panwei Hong, a Chinese national, has been living behind the high walls of Tihar jail with her daughter Saiah Khan, 10, on charges of illegal immigration.
The stint in jail has made both mother and daughter hypertensive.
There are 480 women inmates at Tihar, 20 per cent of whom are convicted, and 70 children.
A study conducted by a team of cardiologists from Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre found that 45 per cent women inmates in Tihar suffer from stress induced hypertension, five- seven per cent from diabetes and about five per cent, mostly elderly, suffer from osteoarthritis.
The team examined more than 200 women inmates as part of a daylong community outreach programme.
“Very few inmates have severe cardiac disorders, it is mostly depression and anxiety. Of the 50 echo cardiogrammes conducted, reports revealed that the patients suffered from left ventricular hypertrophy causing high blood pressure which is very common,” said Dr. Aparna Jaswal, consultant cardiologist and electro-physiologist at Escorts Heart Institute.
“They need counsellors more than specialists, as most suffer from problems of the mind,” she says.
Agreeing with her, Dr Deepmala Kaul, senior medical officer at Tihar, says, “A lot of women, especially those coming from low income groups, don’t even know where the heart is.”
The real problem says Dr Kaul is anxiety which surfaces mostly as the court dates come nearer or when family don’t visit them for long periods.
“They need someone to listen to them and counsel them. Medicines are of little help when the problem is of the mind,” she adds.