By Tavoos Hassan Bhat
People in Kashmir have long been victims and witnesses of violence, which has significantly affected the mental health of the people. Studies confirm that psychological problems are on the rise in Kashmir especially since last two years and south Kashmir is most affected. In South Kashmir’s Kulgam and Shopian districts, the rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) is higher with 25 per cent and 22 per cent of the population respectively suffering from the disorder. The depression rate is over 40 per cent in both the districts. One out of every two adults is mentally disturbed in Kashmir Valley, says a survey conducted by Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF). The Valley has been in the midst of a violent conflict for more than two decades. Other studies haves revealed that nearly 1.8 million adults equaling 45 per cent of adult population suffer from mental distress in Valley and a majority of people have experienced or witnessed conflict-related trauma. Women have an increased vulnerability to the psychological consequences of political conflict. Among the consequences of political conflicts; the impact on the mental health of the civilian population is one of the most significant.
Keeping above studies in mind lets now let’s come to the topic of Braid cutting incidents which have affected the whole society. Braid Cutting incidents basically started form some north Indian states back in August and now have turned into a kind mass hysteria in Kashmir. It should not make us surprise why this hysteria spread quickly as Kashmir is already mental health disaster due to continues political conflict and violence. The current unstable situation in Kashmir has provided a fertile ground for mass hysteria to quickly spread in the whole population. So, the Braid Cutting mass hysteria needs to be looked from the current political instability and prevailing violent atmosphere perspective which has affected general population and particularly more venerable group , that is, women.
Mass hysteria is a condition described as an assumed threat that causes physical symptoms among a large group of people, spreading through sight, sound, smell or conversation, and where people feed off each other’s emotional reactions, causing the panic to escalate. For an episode of mass hysteria to begin, all that is necessary is troubled times in the culture which is perfectly being case in Kashmir, a shared set of beliefs and a final, fearful, anxiety-provoking trigger to set the phenomenon into motion. WhatsApp and other social media may contribute to the multiplication of this braid cutting hysteria. But at its core lies anxiety.
It has also been observed that women or victims who fell easy victim to mass hysteria are mainly low in education or from remote areas because women being from the suppressed class of society to grasp it more easily.
The best way to fight superstition is to promote rational thinking. There is a need for collective response from the members of all walks of life to evolve a multipronged strategy with provision for immediate, short-term and long-term objectives for addressing mental health issues in Kashmir. Unfortunately, in most of these areas with little scientific temper, the media has ended up spreading this mass hysteria knowingly or unknowingly. The civil society and the print and electronic media must also play their roles in controlling irrationality.
9. World Health Organization. “World Health Report 2001 – Mental health: new understanding, new hope. Geneva: Switzerland; 2001”
—The author is a Senior Safety Officer (Healthcare Sector) inAbu Dhabi, UAE. He can be reached at: [email protected]