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PTSD affecting children in Kashmir

Television is the latest culprit in raising post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Dec 04, 2006 17:23 IST
Arun Joshi

Television is the latest culprit in raising post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-a psychiatric malaise-among  Kashmiris, and the children are emerging as the worst victims of this disease at an alarming rate.

The idiot box is serving as a stress multiplier in Kashmir Valley, where violence refuses to go for the past over 17 years. More than 60,000 people have died and the cycle of terrorism related violence and counter insurgency is moving endlessly.

In 1990s, when secessionist violence broke out in the Kashmir Valley, there were no satellite channels relaying news of violence in the most graphic manner to them in their homes. In those days, it was the direct influence of the violence, because the shootouts and bomb explosions were rampant . They were lifting the dead and injured. Now TV is  enhancing the stress level.

"Violence around them is causing severe stress level. It is high in the Valley. The images of violence on TV shoot up the stress level," says Dr Sushil Razdan, a renowned neurologist.  "It is serious."

"There is no difference between fantasy and reality in children and for them it is as good as being part of the event and thus susceptible to vicarious traumatization and hence emerging as a major factor in causing stress related disorder among children in Kashmir," says Dr Arshad Hussain, a  well-known psychiatrist.  He is  keenly studying the role of TV in raising stress disorder among children.

"Like it used to during our childhood, when while watching a movie the mood of children would change with the fate of hero. They would become happy and sad with the changing fate of hero."

Now, in Kashmir, that difference is further lost.  "What they are watching on TV  screens  is happening in reality. They immediately relate each incidents of violence on TV to what they might have seen in reality. This causes anxiety and depression."

"When the twin towers of World Trade Centre fell in New York on 9/11, no gruesome pictures of bodies were shown, while our channels focus more on blood splattered images and bodies and bring out gory details. That is contributing to stress disorder in a big way," Dr Arshad  has analysed  after  the examination of child patients.

Although there is no documentation  of  such numbers, yet  the number is "huge".  Some time, this anxiety  leads to more severe problems like-PTSD and major depressive disorder-a disease that causes damage to the brain. These are serious diseases.

He feels that the TV channels would have to change their methodolgy on this count, otherwise there is a danger of more children becoming victims of these highly dangerous diseases.

A NGO-HELP (Human Effort for Love and Peace) Foundation  that  runs a  Child Guidance and Counselling Centre in Srinagar has been receiving children who are victims of this syndrome. "The Centre has received nearly 2,000 child patients, and of them 12 per cent are suffering from PTSD," Imtiyaz Ahmad  Rather, a senior functionary of the Foundation told Hindustan Times. The child patients come from all over the state, particularly from Kupwara,  Rajouri , Poonch  and also from within the hinterland of the Valley.

"The  problem is on the rise," says Imitiyaz.