Attending mental heath
Published on April 05, 2017

World history is replete with the evidence that besides the physical and material fallouts, conflict also exacts huge costs on the mental health of the affected population. This is indeed a reason why ‘psychological costs of conflict’ has, over the years, attracted a whole lot of scholarship from all over the world, so much so that it has evolved into an independent discipline in clinical psychology. Right from the days of World War II when over 5000 allied troops fighting in East Asia and Asia Oceania were examined by a group of British and American physicians for what was then known as post-traumatic syndrome to the present times when volumes have been and are being written on post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), the impact of conflict on the psychological health of the people is too critical an area to be overlooked.

Although the PTSD presents itself in varied manifestations in Kashmir Valley too, however, there are a few very common symptoms that are visibly evident. The rise in the suicidal tendencies among the people, or the increased incidence of depression, hypertension, heart ailments, et al. -- all these are the indicators suggesting that people are ragged to the hilt. Even as some social and religious groups did try to help by holding seminars and symposia to educate people against the suicides, for instance, but it has had very little impact. The edicts by the Muslim scholars denouncing suicide as an un-Islamic act too have proved inadequate. This single example should serve as evidence that the impact of stress-related disorders is too big and grave to be tackled by seminars on morality and religious edicts alone. It calls for scientific approach -- a well-thought-out, elaborate and comprehensive health policy which is rooted into the local realities, but at the same time, also draws its know-how from the world of empirical evidence developed by some great scholars in the field of clinical and social psychology.

The work of the groups like MSF is no doubt appreciable and their expertise unmatched, but the government too will have to realize its responsibilities and chip in its support. NGOs and non-profits, howsoever good and dedicated they may be, are often confronted with certain logistical and infrastructural handicaps. This is where the government can step in to at least do away with the hurdles these groups face. It goes without saying that the state has very limited resources (particularly on the human resource front) to tackle the problem of such a huge magnitude, but this is not going to be a problem if only there is political will. There are countless international non-profit groups active in this area which could be approached. They will certainly be more than happy to help, at least in training the indigenous human resource of the state. But are we ready for this beginning?

Despite the enormity of the problem, and in the absence of it having taken any initiative on its own, the least the government here could do is to attract and facilitate those that have the know-how and wherewithal to help. So the status-quo infested political executive and inertia-ridden bureaucracy should stop doing selfish politics when it comes to harnessing the expertise and help of those who are specialized to help in such situations.

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