“I still remember the moment the bullets were fired, inches away from us. I start losing sleep every year, when this date approaches.”
The trauma of the deadly terror attack on the city still affects this police constable, who was with the MRA Marg police station when Ajmal Kasab and group attacked Mumbai.
Clinical psychiatrists said even eight years on, those who witnessed the gunfire and saw bloody bodies pile up are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD — a mental disorder that usually develops in individuals who experience shocking, scary or life-threatening situations. Dr Yusuf Matcheswala, honorary psychiatrist at Sir JJ Hospital, GT Hospital, Saifee Hospital and Nagpada Police Hospital said people who have availed treatment for PTSD after 26/11 is only the tip of the iceberg.
“First comes shock, then the panic and eventually stress and fear manifests itself into PTSD. There are people who haven’t identified the problem as a mental disorder, and refuse to leave home on such days. They don’t watch television and have extreme reactions to minor incidents,” said Matcheswala.
While police personnel who witnessed and battled the terrorists were put on an effective trauma therapy called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), psychiatrists said there were many Mumbaiites suffering from PTSD, and some of them may not even realise it. “A 35-year-old man who was at CST that day, came to us years later in 2014, after multiple anxiety attacks, chronic depression and lethargy,” said Dr Sagar Mundada, MD in psychiatry, KEM Hospital. Mundada said the patient had become hypersensitive to noise, was suffering from repeated flashbacks and had nightmares at least thrice a week.
“PTSD had made structural changes to his brain, shifting his fear centre, making him hyper-responsive while he waited for clinical intervention. I saw him last week when he was anticipating the date,” said Mundada. After being treated with medication and counselling therapies, the man is now able to join work.
The EDMR treatment, where eye movement is used as a tool for stimulation of the brain, worked well among the police personnel, Dr Parul Tank said.