Srinagar, Nov 15: The multiple lockdowns since 2019 has given a rise in mental health ailments with hundreds of worried families bringing their children to hospitals for the treatment.
The three decade conflict has taken a toll on mental health in Kashmir. However, the multiple lockdowns post abrogation of Article 370 then Covid-19 pandemic has taken a massive mental health toll on an already suffering population. Many children have not returned to school since August 2019.
Hundreds of parents have been bringing their children to Child Guidance and Wellbeing Centre (CGWC) at the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) of Government Medical College Srinagar.
Incharge CGWC Dr Zaid Ahmad Wani, who is a psychiatrist, said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on everyone’s lives.
“It has given rise to mental illness. Covid has also impacted the physical health of children in the form of weight gain or fatigue,” he said.
Dr Wani said that three key reasons for deteriorating mental health were not being at school, lack of physical exercise, excessive use of social media and smart phones.
Training Coordinator at CGWC Syed Mujtaba says ten to fifteen children in the age group of 4 and 18 facing mental health issues visit CGWC on an average daily.
He said that the CGWC is well equipped with an experienced multidisciplinary team that provides specialized services like counseling, therapies, legal assistance, pharmacological intervention, community intervention and other psycho-social supportive programs.
“Its broader functions are OPD services, psycho education, mass awareness, community outreach and capacity development programs of various stakeholders. Since 2018, more than 14000 children have been catered at the CWGC and the treatment is provided with free of cost,” he told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service (KINS).
CGWC at IMHANS Kashmir is a lone institution in valley with a multidisciplinary team of 16 professionals established in December 2018 under the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) of UNICEF.
A 2021 study conducted by doctors at Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial Hospital (JLNM) hospital Srinagar titled `Severity of depression, anxiety, and stress among the people of Kashmir, India during COVID-19’ says they interviewed 293 people between 31-59 years through teleconsultation. “The majority of participants had severe anxiety (94.2%), moderate depression (42.7%), and 48.5% were experiencing moderate to severe stress,” the study revealed.
Pediatric occupational therapist at CGWC Mohammad Shaheen said the multidisciplinary team provides treatment to children facing learning disorder, academic disorder, behavioral disturbance, aggressiveness, screen addiction, breakups and others.
“We give various therapies like psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, family therapy, speech therapy, use play, storytelling as a tool for treatment,” Shaheen said.
Waseem Rashid Karoo, a Kashmir based clinical psychologist said that mental health issues prevalence has increased among children in Kashmir during COVID or due to family issues.