Srinagar: The J&K government has dumped its rehabilitation plan for pellet victims of the 2016 unrest who have suffered psychological illness following loss of eyesight.
In 2016, nearly 150 persons lost eyesight either completely or partially. As per psychiatrists, they are facing serious mental illnesses due to lack of psychological intervention and a rehabilitation plan for them.
“The counselling programme which was run by the health department in 2016 has been shelved by the government. This has led to serious mental illnesses like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among the pellet victims,” a health official, wishing anonymity, told Kashmir Reader.
Earlier, the government had formed a crisis management team to visit pellet victims in hospitals and in the community, to identify their illness and start their treatment. However, after two years, the programme has disappeared from the ground.
As per doctors, the pellet survivors of 2016 are vulnerable to PTSD. “Only a few pellet victims are on follow-up treatment at SMHS Hospital. We usually catch hold of them at the ophthalmology department, as they don’t turn up themselves,” said Dr Muhammad Maqbool, Head of Department of Psychiatry at Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar.
“The crisis management programme had doctors seeing the pellet victims at their home. The programme ran for a limited period only and now it is difficult to treat them,” Dr Maqbool said.
During the 2016 unrest, the health department had formed a Crisis Intervention Mental Health Team following the huge number of pellet injuries.
“It was a medical emergency. The team was formed to prevent serious mental illnesses. But now the phase of emergency has gone and health authorities have other priorities and challenges to deal with. The government should devise a long-term programme for pellet victims who are showing symptoms of mental illness, so that the problem is prevented from getting worse,” a psychiatrist suggested.
He said the health department and the GMC Srinagar are already facing shortage of doctors and counsellors at the departments of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology. “In such circumstances, the extra community programme for pellet victims was not possible,” the doctor said.
As per official figures, nearly 500 firing survivors are enrolled for counselling at the Psychological Clinics of the GMC. Most of them are pellet victims who have been showing serious symptoms of mental disorder since the day they got injured.
Dr Maqbool assured that a similar programme would be started once the staff strength in the department increases.
“We may start the community-based counselling and crisis intervention again, once we get adequate staff in the department. As of now, one of our post-graduate students is working on the subject to identify psychological problems faced by pellet victims,” he said.