Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The tragedy of being a Kashmiri and having mental health issues

Kashmir has no trained clinical psychiatrist or nurses for its psychiatric hospital and only 33 "medical officers" that treat thousands of psychiatric patients

Ishfaq Mir (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir has no clinical psychiatrist and trained nurses for thousands of psychiatric patients whose numbers are increasing in Kashmir due to the ongoing turmoil, Dr Hameedullah Shah, Medical Superintendent Government Psychiatric Hospital Srinagar on May 15, 2008.

Speaking on the sidelines of a function here, Shah said the State had has only 33 trained medical officers to treat these patients.

Admitting that there is a huge scope for improvement in the mental health sector, Shah said that training packages and better facilities are badly needed by the medicine professionals in Jammu and Kashmir to provide better treatment to the increasing number of psychiatric patients.

“There are only 10 MDs in psychiatry in the entire State where every third person needs consultation for depression. The State has over 40,000 drug-addicts. On an average we receive 200 patients per day at the OPD. There are 28,000 admissions in the hospital of such patients during a year.”

Head of the Department, Psychiatry Hospital Jammu, Dr Chandayal, urged to immediate filling of vacancies of qualified psychiatrists in the State. “We are short of qualified psychiatrists in the State while stress is taking toll on the mental health of the people due to protracted turmoil,” he said.

A senior psychiatrist at the hospital pleading anonymity said, “MBBS doctors with little exposure to psychiatry and a clinical psychologist have been prescribing psychotropic drugs to the visiting patients both in the hospitals at Kashmir and Jammu and in the private clinics. ”Though the head of department puts his countersignature on prescription slips of these MBBS doctors and the clinical psychologist, yet Mental Health Act, 1987, has clearly defined the term ‘psychiatrist’. It says ‘psychiatrist means a medical practitioner possessing a post-graduate degree or diploma in psychiatry, recognized by the Medical Council of India, constituted under Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 (102 of 1956), and includes, in relation to any state, any medical officer who, having regard to his knowledge and experience in psychiatry, has been declared by the government of that state to be a psychiatrist for the purposes of this Act.

Sources said that the psychologists and psychiatrists are equally qualified to give an opinion on an individual’s psychiatric or mental status, treatment regimen, disability status, and back-to-work prognosis. The primary difference between them is not one of credentials but of function. The psychiatrist is licensed to treat mentally ill patients medically (prescribe psychotropic and other prescription drugs) and admit them to a mental health facility or hospital; the psychologist is licensed to treat mentally ill patients with psychotherapy and related therapeutic treatment.

In order to make the medicos of the State well trained in handling psychiatric cases, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) faculty, in collaboration with Government Psychiatric Hospital Srinagar and other post-graduates in psychiatry from the State imparted a three month training to medicos at the Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital Srinagar.

The three months training programme concluded on 15 may 2008 and 13 doctors were awarded certificates after they successfully completed a three-month psychiatric training programme. The training programme was the first of its kind in the entire country and JK is the first state to get this privilege.

Speaking on the occasion VC NIMHANS, Dr Nagarajan said that majority of the people cannot afford private treatment adding that the number of trained medicos is to be increased immediately. “I have seen one or two psychiatrists treating some 2000 patients in certain hospitals which is very bad. The improvement in the situation is not possible without medical officers,” he said.

Principal GMC Mushtaq Ahmad Shah, Director Health Services Jammu Kashmir, Muzaffar Shah and noted psychiatrist Mushtaq Margoob were present on occasion.

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