The displacement of about two and a half lakh Kashmiri Hindus from the peaceful Valley has caused a number of psychological and behavioural problems. If these are not properly and effectively checked and dealt with, it can lead to serious mental illnesses. I had a chance to see about one hundred fifty cases between March 1990 and the end of December 1991. While majority of them presented transitory and situational maladjustment problems, there were a number of cases who had more severe neurotic symptoms like acute anxiety, neurotic depression, hysterical reactions and so on. A few patients also presented initial phase of psychotic reaction.
Women Suffered More
It was clear that while men were able to give vent to their grievances in social meetings etc., the women-folk suffered internally and were more worried about their new settlement in refugee camps etc. They felt the loss of their home and hearth more severely than probably the male counterparts and became victims of psychological symptoms more easily. While the situational maladjustment cases were given a few sessions of psychotherapy and reassurance, the severe cases of neurosis and the functional psychosis were put on drug therapy by consulting physicians (Dr. C.L. Sarup, Physician Specialist, and Dr. P.K. Hak for ENT problems free of charge).
Feelings of Depression
Long queues of migrants waiting to be registered, being pushed in different directions, rude behaviour of some officials, feelings of loss and other related features created a feeling of guilt in their minds and they felt as if they had committed some sin or crime.
While anxiety, tension and other worries including feelings of depression were the main causes of loss of sleep, lack of accommodation proved another factor responsible for insomnia, as all the members of the family had forcibly to sleep in the same room/tent where individual needs, habits and behaviour patterns of sleep or work had to be modified, changed and adjusted to the needs and conveniences of the other members of the family. Situation was worse if several families were sharing the same room/hall. Insomnia resulted in brooding over the past events, happy days in Kashmir, property left, loss suffered and other related issues leading to further feelings of anxiety and depression and aggravation of symptoms.
Loss of Appetite
A good number of patients complained of loss of appetite and did realise that it was all due to anxiety and worries and tension and feelings of depression. However, proper understanding of their problems and a few sessions of psychotherapy helped them in overcoming their basic symptoms to a large extent which also helped in reducing the problems of reduced appetite. A number of patients also reported that they had developed some physical symptoms and ailments like attacks of gasteritis, palpitation of heart (tachtcardia), feelings of exhaustion and skin diseases and some other psychosomatic disorders for which they had received treatment from various physicians.
State of Uncertainty
A common feature seen among the patients was a state of uncertainty, confusion and lack of any plan of action, There was a generaI feeling that everything was gone (almost amounting to a sort of nihilistic delusion) and there was no clear cut programme for rehabilitation and resettlement, which created doubts in their mind about their survival even.
Feeling of Being Uprooted
Majority of the patients felt as if they had been thrown away by a strong valcano, a storm of immense magnitude into a state of wilderness and their roots almost cut off. There was a general feeling that something was amiss, something had been snatched from their hands and their lives were empty and incomplete; an inner feeling of emptiness prevailed among almost all the patients. Loss of home was a very strong feeling. Self-talking and unproductive movements: A few persons were seen to be engrossed in self-talking and making strange gestures and movements of hands and fingers, at times movement of lips as if in conversation with others. Majority of the displaced people who sought consultations for their mental health problems also complained of their inability to adjust to a different environment.
Problems of the Student Community
Perhaps the worst hit section of the displaced people has been the student community. Their problems included not only lack of the facilities but absence of the very basic needs and requirements; all these problems created a lot of mental health problems for the displaced students. Denial of admission in regular institutions, forcing the administration to start Camp institutions where all the desired and required facilities could not be provided played havoc with the mental health of students. Lack of laboratory and library facilities affected the studies of even the brightest students. The students also felt disheartened on account of delay and postponement of examinations.
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