Physical injuries leave behind mental scars in strife-torn Kashmir Valley
Blinded by pellets in one eye, a young Kashmiri protester recuperating in Srinagar’s SMHS hospital vows to see through his revenge with the other.
Vengeance trembled through the lips of a 14-year-old girl too. Pellets fired by security forces damaged both her eyes and she is undergoing treatment at Delhi’s AIIMs. “I want to kill those responsible and die,” she said at the Srinagar hospital where she was initially treated.
They are suffering from trauma and acute psychological stress. There are hundreds like them, maimed in a massive security clampdown to quell protests over the death of militant leader Burhan Wani on July 8.
Kashmir was under curfew for 51 days. Seventy people died during the unrest while thousands suffered pellet injuries.
Principal of the government medical college here, Dr Kaiser Ahmad, has formed a crisis intervention team (CIT) to offer psychological assistance to the wounded people.
The eight-member team comprising four clinical psychologists, two counsellors with expertise in conflict-related trauma, and two psychiatrists was constituted soon after the wounded began pouring into Srinagar hospital in recent wave of unrest in the Valley.
“Patients are primarily dealing with their disability. Many can’t see; others can’t walk. Their eyes are blinded by pellets or their legs shattered by bullets. So there is anger and depression and some are worried about their future,” said Javid Jeelani Shah, a counsellor.
The team has counselled over 200 patients so far. “Along with physical wounds, there is psychological suffering. So we needed a comprehensive crisis management,” Ahmad said. “Patients who lost their eyesight or vital organs might go into deep depression or develop suicidal tendencies.”
Initial symptoms are sleep disturbance, panic , fears over losing their eyesight permanently, clinical psychologist Aijaz Khan explained.
“There can be panic attacks, irritability and agitation, shortness of breath and palpitation in the first weeks.”
He said such has been the trauma associated with pellet injuries that many doctors required debriefing after treating or counselling patients.
The team is worried about patients developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“If symptoms of psychological problems continue, perhaps the patients will get scary flashbacks of the incident, like pellets or bullets hitting them,” Khan said.
The team has kept contact details of its patients to know how they are doing, and advised parents and guardians to report any signs of PTSD.