India turns hundreds into psychopaths, risk relapse

Srinagar—Most of the psychiatric patients are unable to reach hospitals for treatment due to continuous curfew and restrictions. Psychiatrists fear that the mental health of their patients may worsen and they may suffer a relapse.
Between 100 and 150 patients would visit ever day the Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (IMHANS) in Rainawari area of Srinagar, the main psychiatric hospital in the Valley.
Similarly, SMHS hospital’s community centre at Karan Nagar would cater to 100-120 patients on a normal day.
Ever since the ongoing uprising, the patient inflow has reduced to 40-50 patients at these hospitals.
“Psychiatric treatment is a continuous process. There has to be regular follow-up of the patient. The dosage of medicines has to be monitored by us and followed strictly by the patients,” saidpsychiatrist Dr Altaf Ahmed.
He said that patients suffering from mental disorders like depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress disorder (ASD) and other mental illnesses are likely to suffer more if treatment is not followed in the manner advised by the doctors.
“Such patients are likely to show ‘withdrawal symptoms’, such as, lack of sleep, anxiety, fear, headache and high blood-pressure,” said the psychiatrist.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry at IMHANS, Dr Yasir Rather said that medicines like anti-depressants, anti-epilepsy, mood stabilisers, hypnotics (sedatives) are costlier in the open market but provided at affordable cost in government-run hospitals.
“The patients, mostly from far-off places and poorer backgrounds, are unable to reach the hospitals due to curfew and I fear their mental health will get badly affected,” Dr Yasir said.
“Any break in the treatment and follow-up will bring relapse symptoms (initial state of mental illness back),” he said.
Psychiatrist Dr Arshid Hussain said that 11% of the Kashmiri population (13,75,000 people as per 2011 census) suffer from mental illness.
“Without doubt,” he said, “access to medication and treatment has been affected, resulting in relapse of illness in patients. In the past few days we have been receiving medical emergencies both at IMHANS and at the community centre at SMHS.”
The doctor added that he had been receiving calls from patients regarding unavailability of medicines. “We can lose control over the patients like this,” he said.
According to a report released by Medicines San Frontiers (MSF) in collaboration with Psychology Department of Kashmir University and Institute of Mental and Neuroscience (IMHANS) in May this year 56,25,000 people (according to 2011 census) suffer from mental distress, 10,68,750 people of them (according to 2011 census) from PSTD.
The counselling offered to psychiatric patients by MSF has also got affected in Kashmir due to current uprising, said Country Director MSF Madali Roudaug. She said, “Our regular activities including providing regular counselling sessions to psychiatric patients have got affected. We try to go places wherever possible in this unrest in valley.”
She said psychiatric patients not been able to have regular follow up counselling sessions that will certainly have an impact on their mental health.—KR

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