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Major depressive disaorder assuming epidemic proportions in J&K

Major Depressive Disorder ? a deadly psychiatric disease ? is assuming "epidemic" proportions in Kashmir, reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2006 12:18 IST
Arun Joshi

It is a wake up callin Jammu.Major Depressive Disorder — a deadly psychiatric disease — is assuming"epidemic" proportions in Kashmir.

It has already gone up by30 per cent in the past over a decade. In the early 1990s, the number of patientsto the psychiatric hospitalin Srinagar —the only hospitalfor treatment of such diseaseshas gone upfrom 1700-2000 per year to 60,000 per year.

"This is assumingepidemic proportions," saysDr Arshad Hussain, a well known psychiatristwho isdoing a constant study on thepattern of psychiatric diseases and their reasons.

"It is a very serious situation," he says. Hefindsthe number ofsuchpatients on the rise.

These are reported cases. There may be many more such cases, which are not reported to thehospitals because of a social stigma attached with a visit toa psychiatric hospital. A visit to such hospitals, instantlyattracts a tag of insanity. That is what the people avoid.

A sudden change inatmosphere in Kashmirin 1990schangedeverything. KashmirValley, a place of beauty and peace where tourists couldmove around even during midnight without any fear, suddenly transformed intoa land where bullets zipped across and bombs killed and wounded people.

This set into motionmajor depressive disorders. Those most affected are women. "Their number is more than 50 per cent of the patients we receive at the hospital," Dr Arshadnoted.

"Women are predisposed biologically, psychologically and socially and also form the largest survivor group, thus forming the bulk of the disease burden."

Thepast 17 years have been the worst in the lives of women in Jammu and Kashmir. They have been a witness to the killing of the bread earners, their children and alsoliving in constant anxiety of their husbands, brothers and children having gone missing.

There is hardly any house inthe five million population of Kashmir which has not been either directly or indirectly affected by theviolencethat has claimed 60,000 lives so far.

Women in thisviolence-hit state aretheworst affected.Prof Seema Shekhawatof Jammu University in her research paper: Victims, perpetrators, survivors or peace building? Women In Kashmir: An overview,says : "Women face conflict-related violence doubly because of their gender, as part of civilian population. They're caught between two guns — that of terrorists and troops. Women have suffered, ranging from rape and torture to losing loved ones and homes."

That tragedy continues to haunt women in Jammu and Kashmir, and that is what is making them the worst victims of the major depressive disorders. At the momentthere appears to be no escape for them, as the situation around them remains unchanged.

Dr Arshad Hussainsays that the disease is also catching up with thechildren.

This is leading to decline in school performance, anger outbursts, irritability, aberrant social functioning, poor self esteem and even behaviour of deliberate self harm. In extreme cases it might even affect the normal development of children.

And Kashmir is grappling with it asit is expanding at a rapid and dangerous speed.

First Published: Dec 06, 2006 12:18 IST