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.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Baring the Closet

Javid Rather from Baramulla discusses a very unfashionable topic in a society obsessed with politics

Mental Health in Kashmir

In Kashmir, the prolonged exposure to stress that the insecure situation has engendered means that the coping mechanism of individuals is impaired or dysfunctional. This raises the issue of structural support for the community. The substantial need for psychological and psychiatric support can only be addressed through a strong community - based mental health system.

Regretfully, though this type of service is clearly advocated in the Indian Mental Health Program, in Kashmir, community psychosocial services are absent and psychiatric services outside Srinagar remain almost non-existent. Culture certainly impacts how individuals from a given society perceive, communicate and manifest their symptoms; how they cope with the illness; how their family and community supports the individual; and finally how willing the individual is to seeking treatment. Source? Or is this an opinion from the writer? If so it should be clear that this is an opinion! Cultures also vary with respect to the meaning they impart to illness, their way of making sense of the subjective experience of illness and distress .The meaning of an illness refers to deep- seated attitudes and beliefs a culture holds about whether an illness is “ real” or “ imagined,” whether it is of the body or the mind ( or both), whether it warrants sympathy, how much stigma surrounds it, what might cause it, and what type of person might succumb to it.

Cultural meanings of illness have real consequences in terms of whether people are motivated to seek treatment, how they cope with their symptoms, how supportive their families and communities are, where they seek help ( mental health specialist, primary care provider, clergy, and/ or traditional healer), the pathways they take to get services, and how well they fare in treatment.Before the conflict in Kashmir erupted on to the main stage in the late 1980s, there was little awareness in the state of what mental health constituted or how this could impact on the individual’s physical well- being.

A good pointer would be the number of patients registered in the outpatient department of the only government psychiatric hospital in Srinagar. While before 1989, there were only a few hundred patients registered with the department, since the 1990s, this number has risen to several thousands. Mental health and physical well- being are deeply interwoven, affecting the functioning of the individual and his/ her place in society. In traditional societies, cultural influences often mean that the very idea of admitting to a psychological problem is anathema. A person suffering from a bipolar disorder or schizophrenia would more likely be dubbed as insane than as someone with a treatable mental disorder. Besides, mental illness is often stigmatised as bringing shame.

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