State terror, e-curfew, military siege takes toll on people’s mental health

Snapping Internet makes edgy the generation accustomed to socializing on networking sites, say doctors
Srinagar: Yasmina, a 43-year-old woman from Hawal has been brought by her husband to the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Srinagar, after she complained of severe anxiety and palpitations. This is for the first time in her life that she has had such complaints.
Her husband said that Yasmina has grown very worried about her two teenage sons after listening to stories about maiming of tens of hundreds of boys during by government forces during the past two weeks of state violence on protesters.
“She fears her sons might become the next victims,” he said. Dr Waris Ahmad Zargar, a psychiatrist at the institute, said many people have complained of mental problems due to ongoing siege.
“Many patients came to me at the SMHS and said curfew pushes to extremes of behaviour as neither the government forces nor the families were allowing them to venture out of their homes. This act of denying free space to a person can have serious implications on a human mind,” he added.
The communication blackout enforced by the government has complicated the problem.  “Some of the patients have developed fears about the wellbeing of their kin whom they have not been able to contact. A woman who had been recently engaged feared her engagement might have ended because there was no word from her in laws. This is the danger of snapping communications,” he said.
Aware of what was coming, a team of psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors was deputed to the SMHS and Bone and Joint Hospital of Srinagar to address the issues of mentally disturbed people, said Mohammad Maqbool, head department of the Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience.
He said that those hit by pellets were counselled and some who had suffered grievous injuries needed psychiatric help. The majority of the brutalised population lives in villages and they are yet to receive psychiatric care.
Asking the government to lift the communication blockade, Dr Maqbool said, “The breakdown of mobile phone network and hence social networking sites can have serious repercussions and can fan fire. It can lead to further anger.”
Dr Rehana Amin, a psychiatrist, said people vent their anger on social networking sites and banning Internet will only add to their anger and they will look for other means to express their frustrations.
She also said the curbs on people’s movement has had very bad effects on the patients she has been treating.
“Some of my patients visit at night as they fear they might be beaten,” she added. “You cannot throw this generation into the Stone Age in one go by clamping down on Internet because it has become a lifeline and cutting it off in one go can have serious consequences,” she said.