Muntazar: Kashmir Mental Health Survey Report 2015

FOCUS

Published in 2016, this report presents the findings of a survey undertaken by Médecins Sans Frontières, New Delhi, and the University of Kashmir and Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, both located in Srinagar. It discusses the mental health landscape – particularly for conditions like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – as well as the accessibility of healthcare services in the Kashmir valley. The publication aims to contribute to the formulation of policies and aid in the planning and monitoring of mental health programmes.

Nearly 1.8 million adults (45 per cent of the adult population) in the Kashmir valley are suffering from symptoms of mental distress – states the report. The survey was conducted in 5,600 households from 400 villages across 10 districts in the valley among individuals aged 18 years and above, and 65 per cent of respondents were females. It employed household surveys as well as focus group discussions, and the questionnaires were adapted to the cultural context of Kashmir. The report states that factors like gender, age, marital status, area of residence and exposure to traumatic events, are important in the occurrence of depression, anxiety and PTSD.

This 96-page report begins with a section on recommendations and is divided into five chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); Overview of the study methodology (Chapter 2); The results of the KMHS 2015 (Chapter 3); Preliminary findings from focus group discussions (Chapter 4); and Looking Forward (Chapter 5).

    FACTOIDS

  1. The report states that 41 per cent of the adult population in Kashmir – 1.6 million people – exhibit signs of ‘probable depression’, 26 per cent (about a million people) have ‘probable anxiety’, and 19 per cent (771,000 people) suffer from ‘probable PTSD’. The districts of Baramula and Badgam reported the highest prevalence of the three disorders.

  2. As many as 37 per cent of adult males and 50 per cent of adult females in Kashmir suffer from probable depression; 21 per cent of males and 36 per cent of females suffer from probable anxiety; and 18 per cent of males and 22 per cent of females suffer from probable PTSD.

  3. About 10 per cent of adults (415,000 people) in the Kashmir valley suffer from severe depression while six per cent (248,000 people) suffer from severe PTSD.

  4. Suicidal ideation – determined as recorded responses to the question in the survey “in the past four weeks how often have you had thoughts of killing yourself?” – was reported among an overwhelming 12 per cent of Kashmiri adults, 94 per cent of whom were suffering for at least one of the three disorders studied in the report.

  5. An adult resident of Kashmir valley has witnessed or experienced an average of 7.7 traumatic events during their lifetime – including natural disasters, conflict-related crackdowns, raids and frisking. As high as 99.2 per cent of the adult population reported experiencing or witnessing at least one traumatic event.

  6. The most common day-to-day problems faced by adults living in the Kashmir valley were financial issues, poor health and unemployment. The most common coping strategies were prayer, talking to a family member or friend, social isolation or going for a walk. One in every five men used tobacco as a coping mechanism.

  7. About 11 per cent of adults in the valley reported taking benzodiazepines, which are widely used in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia. Around 46 per cent of them reported having taken this medication for more than a year.

  8. The major barriers to seeking treatment for mental health disorders are lack of awareness about psychiatric services, and the costs, distance and poor physical infrastructure of healthcare facilities. Social stigma about mental health, discrimination, lack of awareness and neglect also pose as barriers to seeking professional help for mental health issues.

  9. The report recommends the decentralisation and strengthening of mental healthcare services to improve accessibility; collaboration between various government sectors and departments; recruitment and training of mental health professionals to increase awareness and sensitisation on these issues; and ensuring community participation to disseminate knowledge. The report also suggests furthering relevant research, especially on matters concerning suicide and substance use.


    Focus and Factoids by Shefali Mehra.

AUTHOR

Médecins Sans Frontières, New Delhi; the University of Kashmir, Srinagar; Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Srinagar

COPYRIGHT

Médecins Sans Frontières, New Delhi

PUBLICATION DATE

2016

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