SRINAGAR: According to a comprehensive mental health survey conducted by the medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) between October and December 2015, nearly 1.8 million adults (45 per cent of the population) in the Kashmir Valley show symptoms of significant mental distress. The research was done in collaboration with the Department of Psychology, Kashmir University and the Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (IMHANS).
The survey covered 5428 households in 399 villages across all ten districts of the Kashmir Valley, and was complemented by a series of in-depth focus group discussions.
A research summary of which was released recently at a symposium on mental health held at the Government Medical College in Srinagar, 41 per cent of people exhibit symptoms of probable depression, 26 per cent show symptoms of probable anxiety and 19 per cent show symptoms of probable Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The full report will be released on May 25, 2016 on the MSF India website.
This survey provides, for the first time, an insight into the level of mental distress in all ten districts of Kashmir Valley. It was only made possible through a fruitful collaboration throughout the process, says Dr Tambri Housen, MSFs principal researcher. The next step would be to use this data and work together with key stakeholders and mental health experts to tailor healthcare services to meet the mental health needs of people in Kashmir.
One crucial outcome of the focus group discussions held in each district was a clear gap in accessibility to mental health services. The main barrier to seeking treatment included lack of awareness of available mental health services. Other commonly mentioned obstacles included distance, travel time, and associated costs necessary to reach health services.
The research summary underscores an urgent need to develop a comprehensive, integrated and decentralised mental health programme in the Kashmir Valley aiming at both prevention and treatment. The recommendations listed in the report call for expansion of mental healthcare services and increased sensitisation in the community for prevention and care of mental distress.
How to offer culturally appropriate, effective and acceptable mental health interventions is a question for all service providers, experts and policy makers, says Magali Roudaut, Director, MSF India. There is unanimous consensus among all concerned in favour of decentralising mental health services across the valley. We hope these recommendations, born of such an in-depth scientific study, will help shape the state response with specific interventions to the greater benefit of populations in need.
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