Are injured Kashmiri youth developing suicidal tendencies?

Posted: August 7, 2016 in Conflict and Peace, Draconian Laws, healthcare, Human Rights, Right to Dissent, State Violence

Protesters hold sticks as they shout slogans during a protest in Srinagar against the recent killings in Kashmir, July 23, 2016. (Reuters)

Doctors say due to communication blockade patients are not able to talk to their loved ones leading to complications.

A total of 130 youth who were injured grievously in protests that followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by a team of doctors, psychologists and counselors in Srinagar.

Officials here also told dna that among the 130 youth who are currently being treated for injuries to their eyes, head, limbs and other vital organs, at least 20 have shown signs of ‘High Risk PTSD’ prompting doctors to classify them as patients with suicidal tendencies.

Adding to their woes, communication blockade has made it nearly impossible for the youth to contact their families especially in north and south Kashmir and doctors believe that not talking to their loved one while in hospital can only create more complexities for the injured youth.

The youth are currently admitted in Srinagar’s main hospitals including Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) and Bone and Joint and were interviewed by the Critical Intervention team (CIT) that was constituted on directions of Government Medical College’s Principal. A week after Burhan Wani’s killing in South Kashmir’s Kokernag area; entire valley witnessed both violent and nonviolent demonstrations which has resulted in nearly 50 civilian deaths and injuries to over 2,000 mourners. The CIT was directed to interview and counsel persons admitted in Srinagar’s main hospitals especially those grievously injured in their eyes due to pellet firing by security forces.

“70 patients were interviewed in SMHS and 60 in Bone and Joint Hospital. In my experience a patient can take upto six months to develop PTSD. But here , a week after being injured, boys as young as 15, have not only shown signs of PTSD but acute symptoms which prompted us to label them as high risk patients,” said Javid Jeelani, the mental health counselor in SMHS. Jeelani, was part of the CIT which was divided in four teams of 2-3 officials.

“Each patient was interviewed and counseled for a minimum of five minutes. Some, with serious injuries, were given 15 minutes to talk about themselves and our findings are deeply disturbing,” Jeelani said while speaking of specific patients who seem to have suicidal tendencies.

“In SMHS’s ophthalmology department more than 170 patients with eye injuries were admitted and nearly 140 were operated upon. Patients with vision in one eye can at least hope for a future but those who have been blinded completely are our concern. Injuries other than the ones inflicted on eyes of these patients can also be very detrimental. An example is of a youth in his 20s. The youth was shot at in his legs and is bones are completely crushed. He may never walk again,” Jeelani added.

Dr Arshad Hussain, a psychiatrist explained how neglecting mental ailments can directly affect physical treatment. “Some of these patients may think what is the use of living after losing their limbs or eyes and chose not to go to hospitals to get treatment for their wounds. That’s why it is important to speak to the patients and tell them that their world has not ended,” Hussain told dna”.

What lies in their future?

The SMHS hospital, which now houses stalls of several volunteer groups that provide free medicine and food to patients and their relatives, in the last two weeks, has seen scores of volunteers helping the injured. “During 90’s militancy, families who suffered in violence by security forces were were supported by our society. Things have changed now,” said a volunteer in ward number eight of SMHS while assisting a patient.

Few beds away was five-year-old Nasir , admitted in SMHS after allegedly being beaten by CRPF officials in South Kashmir. Nasir who suffered injuries in his eyes started to cry when a doctor tried to administer eye drops. Hearing the little boy cry, some patient with pellet injuries in their eyes surrounded the bed and tried to pacify Nasir. Bystanders sobbed at the sight of patients with eye injuries pacifying the youngest patient in the ward. “There is a lot of comradery to be witnessed here but my biggest fear is will it be the same when all these injured people return to their homes,” another volunteer added.


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