Monday, November 24, 2008

Shell-Shocked in Kashmir, Part 2

The ongoing conflict in Kashmir has taken an enormous human toll. Last week the Indian journalist Shabir Ibn Yusuf sent us a report about the psychological aftereffects of violence on the local Kashmiri populace. Here’s a follow-up article on the same topic.

Shell-Shocked in Kashmir, Part 2
by Shabir Ibn Yusuf

KASHMIR (INDIA), Nov 23 :An international organization research on the Kashmir conflict has reported that 85 per cent of Valley populations have had a confrontation with violence while 66 percent have witnessed torture.

The research was conducted by the web portal in two districts across 30 villages during the last three months and those occurring since the start of the conflict, to assess experiences with violence and mental health status among the conflict-affected Kashmiri population.

The survey reported that the civilian population in Kashmir is exposed to high levels of violence, as demonstrated by the high frequency of deliberate events as detention, hostage-taking, and torture.

Respondents reported frequent direct encounters with violence since the start of the conflict, including exposure to crossfire (85.7%), round-up raids (82.7%), the witnessing of torture (66.9%), rape (13.3%), self-experience of forced labour (33.7%), arrests/kidnapping (16.9%), torture (12.9%), and sexual violence (11.6%).
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The male population has reported more confrontations with violence than females, and had an increased likelihood of having directly experienced physical/mental maltreatment, violation of their modesty, and injury. Males also had high odds of self-reporting arrest/ kidnap. The portal’s survey found that the Kashmiri male population reported significantly more confrontations with almost all violent events; this can be explained by higher participation in outdoor activities. The reported violence may result in substantial health problems, including mental health problems, the survey noted.

The survey found high levels of psychological distress that impacts on daily life and places a burden on the health system. Ongoing feelings of personal vulnerability (not feeling safe) were associated with high levels of psychological distress.

Over one-third of respondents were found to have symptoms of psychological distress; women scored significantly higher. A third of respondents had contemplated suicide.

Community mental health programmes should be considered as a way reduce the pressure on the health system and improve socio-economic functioning of those suffering from mental health problems. The ongoing conflict exacts a huge toll on the communities’ mental well-being, writes the portal.

The survey was done as part of routine programme evaluation to assess confrontation with violence and its consequences on mental health, health service usage, and socio-economic functioning.