The Innocent Suffer in Silence
Written by: Gowher Bhat
According to an article from, Aljazeera, named Kashmiri’s Mental Health Crisis, by Baba Tamim, September 3, 2016. Mental Health Illness has affected 1.8 million Kashmiri citizens in the past decade. 50% of women and 37% of men suffer from depression. The studies proved the reason for this severe turnout is due to the military conflicts between Pakistan and India in Kashmir. The strict curfews and strikes have delivered the people into misery, and a sad state of mind. Depression and anxiety disorders are not the only disorder people are suffering. There are hundreds of mental health diagnosis, but they are not labeled and not revealed. Instead, it’s referred to as Mental Illness Stigmas. The definition of Mental Illness Stigmas means a patient is referred to as dangerous, crazy, or incompetent. These disorders are swept under the carpet, by professionals, and family members. There are not enough facilities to help people with Stigmas, and the government is not paying much attention to the widespread problem. There is only one psychiatric hospital in Kashmir, and a handful of out-patient psychiatric facilities, which proves there it’s not taken seriously.
Centuries ago, people with mental health illness, like Schizoid, Psychosis, and Paranoia, were believed a demon-possessed your soul. Which frightened family and friends because of the way a person acted. The family would lock them in a room, labeling them crazy, and hope they would die. They believed it was the works of evil forces and that they would be next. The treatment for this was barbaric, there was no mercy, exorcisms were performed, or they even went as far as drilling a hole through the person’s skull. But nowadays, we have psychiatrist, counselors, social workers, and NGO’s that offer psychotherapy and self-help groups. Medications are administered to control delusional and paranoid behaviors. But still, in Kashmir, we live in the dark ages, with our primitive thinking, labeling people that suffer from severe mental illness calling them crazy lazy losers. Family members make excuses, and try to hide the fact they’re subjected to verbal and physical abuse. Burying the problem is just contributing to the suffering and will escalate over time. It’s a simple scenario if the person doesn’t seek treatment and take medication; it only gets worse through the years; it never cures itself.
In many countries, an adult has the right to refuse treatment. However, they can be treated without their consent if they are a danger to oneself or others. Some countries have crisis intervention teams. Professionals will visit homes and give the disabled person a psychiatric evaluation to make sure he/she is not a threat to themselves or society. Kashmir doesn’t have that law or a Department of Mental Health that could manage these programs. With three-quarters of the population suffering from some kind of mental illness, the problem should be given serious consideration. All the executives I have interviewed say they worry about the people; this is one issue that promptly needs attention because it will not improve over time.
Another cause of concern are children with parents who suffer from Stigma. A child feels hopeless when they don’t understand why their parents are neglectful. They notice the house isn’t not kept, No food in the home and dinner on the table. Arguments are daily by the parent who is suffering from this illness. They endure hurtful name calling and risk the chance of being beaten. The child suffers in silence and tries to hide abusive behavior because he/she is ashamed. The situation put upon a child is irreversible. When entering their teens and into their adult years, they too run a risk of depression and suffer from significant anxiety disorders or Stigma. All because their mother or father refused to get treatment and take medication.
I interviewed a man (who would like to remain nameless.) He lives with this every day. He’s an adult residing with his mother as a caretaker. Lately, most of the time she is psychotic and believes he is destroying the house, by breaking the water pipes, putting holes in the wall and is the cause of all her problems. He never knows what mood she’s in, and as soon as he enters the house from work, she begins with verbal abuse and threatening to hurt him. She remains in a psychotic state for days, and her normalcy doesn’t surface too often as of late. It’s becoming evident she is paranoid, thinking people want to hurt her, and steal things. She shouts out the window calling him horrific names, for all the neighbors to hear. There is no reasoning with her, and she says that he is the crazy one, and there is nothing wrong with her. He’s called the hospital and spoke to counselors and doctors, and when he puts her on the phone, she begins to curse calling them crazy. Family members and friends have disowned her, and she even accuses her husband of fraternizing with other women and kicked him out. He explained to me that he feels he’s the only one going through this; there is no support, no one to confide. His hands are tied and try to understand she is sick, but to watch his mother change into a hateful human is leaving him helpless and affecting his job. She doesn’t trust a soul, not even the pastors from the mosque. Law enforcement will not remove her from home and escort her to the hospital. They tell him their not taking responsibility because she refuses treatment. The lady needs psychiatric intervention, but the law states that she doesn’t have to if she refuses.
On a personal note, I’m proposing that the government to recognize people who are in a bad state of mind as a threat. They need to take action by changing the law so that a family member can mandate a psychiatric evaluation for medication and treatment. With all the turmoil that is going on in Kashmir, this should raise red flags. We need more Psychiatrist, Psychologist, and Social Workers to head up crisis teams. Police should be able to respond if there is abuse taken place and escort an emotionally disturbed person to the hospital. Family members and children shouldn’t suffer in silence any longer by watching their loved ones decompensate into hurtful human beings.
The Innocent Suffer in Silence