The vicious cycle of unending violence and the deadly pandemic situation, children in Indian-administered Kashmir are battling with growing mental health problems.
Children in Kashmir grow up under confinements and violence. They are even forced to assume responsibility for caregivers for siblings and family, amidst the loss of guardians, irregular education system, and the fear of being picked up by the forces.
Kashmiri Journalist Gowhar Geelani, in his book ‘Kashmir Rage and Reason’, says Kashmiri children internalize terms like ‘detention’ ‘interrogation’ ‘custody killing’ ‘torture’ and ‘disappearance’ — which otherwise they should not be familiar with.
Mental health specialists have warned of an “epidemic of psychological disorders” among the children of the valley who are exposed to complex trauma due to the prolonged conflict in the region, as a video surfaced of a 3-year-old boy describing the series of events as an eye witness to the killing of his grandfather before his eyes in north Kashmir’s Sopore on Wednesday.
Describing the latest video of the incident ‘extremely gruesome’, Dr. Karrar said, “Children at this age do not know of the complexities surrounding death and find it hard to overcome the trauma, unlike older children and adults. The trauma experienced in early childhood (0-6 years) impacts the overall psychological well-being and also affects the development of brain structures,” Dr. Karrar said.
The Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences-Kashmir (IMHANS-K) started observing the behaviour of the three-year-old child from Srinagar’s HMT area, a process that started from Thursday and will continue for about six weeks. Any disturbing behavioural pattern will be dealt with by mental health experts,” Dr. Syed Karrar, a pediatric neuropsychiatrist at IMHANS-K, told The Hindu
IMHANS-K has already witnessed around 200 mental trauma cases among Kashmiri children in the past year. Of the 200 cases, around 80% belonged to pre-adolescence age groups and 65-70% of the affected children belonged to south Kashmir owing to the continuous security crackdowns, encounters, and funerals. “Several children from south Kashmir talked about having flashbacks, episodic sightings of trauma and sleep disorders,” Dr. Karrar said.
And this is not only limited to South Kashmir but the whole of it, as established by a survey published in the Community Mental Health Journal earlier this year, every third child in Shopian district suffers from a clinically diagnosable mental disorder and about 1.8 million adults showed symptoms of mental illness, according to Doctors Without Borders. The disastrous effects of a history of violence, illegal detentions, and torture in the Valley are visible on the minds of children, along with frequent closures of the education system, internet, and loss of family.
This condition is not even categorized as classic Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because the vicious horrid cycle of trauma never ceases for Kashmiris rather it is an ongoing experience.