16 % Teens In Kashmir Battling Coronavirus Triggered Depression

Srinagar- With the Covid-19 threats finally subsiding, a new report by four Kashmiri doctors has revealed that the Coronavirus pandemic has left scores of Kashmiris in the grip of worsening mental health issues in the Valley as 16 percent of adolescents have been found battling depression.

The report, authored by four doctors—Asif Jeelani, Sabira Aalia Dkhar, Ruqia Quansar & S. M. Salim Khan—from GMC Srinagar’s Department of Community Medicine is based on the prevalence of depression and anxiety among school-going adolescents in Kashmir valley during Covid-19 pandemic.

As per the research, the overall prevalence of depression among adolescents in Kashmir was recorded at 16 percent and was associated with a past history of Covid infection.

“The prevalence ranged from 14.5 percent in adolescent boys to 18 percent for girls. The highest mean score achieved in the PHQ-9A scale was obtained for question-related to sleep disruption (question no 3), whereas the question related to self-harm had the lowest mean score (question no 9).” reveals the research.

Besides depression, the research has also noted that 20 percent of adolescents in Kashmir were battling anxiety.

“The prevalence was 14% for boys and 27.5% for girls. On logistic regression, anxiety was associated with female gender, past history of personal COVID-19 infection, history of COVID-19 diagnosis in family and hospital admission due to COVID-19 in family. ” reads the report.

Notably, the researchers have used World Health Organization standard’s methods besides using Patient Health Questionnaire for Adolescents and Generalized Anxiety Disorder questionnaire to screen for depression and anxiety among school going adolescents aged between 15 and 19 years during January and February 2021.

The data has further noted that out of the 439 adolescents who had responded, 426 (97.03%) who were of a mean age of 17.5 + 1.26 years and comprised of 57% males were included in the final analysis.

Anxiety and depression, the research revealed, are major public health problems among adolescents. “The high burden estimated in our study highlights the need for immediate action to support adolescents particularly those with a self/family history of COVID-19.” The researchers reveal.

It is pertinent to mention here that the report has also brought into fore that before the start of the pandemic, these adolescents, on an average were spending two hours on internet, however after the pandemic the median of hours per day had significantly increased to 4 hours per day.

Female gender, history of personal Covid infection, hospital admission due to COVID-19 in family and perceived impact of Covid, the report noted, were positively associated with anxiety, whereas history of personal Covid infection was positively associated with depression.

Talking to Kashmir Observer, Dr. Ruqia Quansar, one of the authors, said that there’s an important need for improving access to preventive and curative mental services for adolescents.

“This school-going age is such where an adolescent desperately needs to socialize and participate in various physical activities to avoid stress. It’s like a stress buster for children. However, since the outbreak of Covid pandemic, there has been a severe disruption in routine activities of these adolescents and that’s exactly what has impacted their mental health.” Dr. Ruqia told Kashmir Observer.

“The percentage obtained has been done by using a WHO standard scale which includes GAD-7 for anxiety and PHQ-9 for depression. So, there are few questions that an adolescent has to undergo and based on the total score, we’re able to calculate his/her mental health. If the total score is above 10 then it is considered anxiety or depression. Subsequently, according to our data, Covid pandemic and the lockdown has affected the mental health of our children.”

She further added that there have been many researches in Kashmir on how pandemic has affected mental health of adults.

“But, no one was working on the deteriorating mental health of Kashmir’s adolescents. That’s why we thought of collecting and compiling the data on adolescent mental health in Kashmir.” says Dr. Ruqia.

The data has marked that there is also a specific need to have a mental health screening program in place for adolescents, Dr. Ruqia notes, who had a family history of Covid diagnosis in the family in particular and for all adolescents in general. “This way, we can ensure that our children don’t have to battle mental health crises at this tender age.” Dr. Ruqia told Kashmir Observer.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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