July 08, 2007

Doctors in Jammu & Kashmir to train in Psychiatry

Post-traumatic stress disorders are now becoming common among people in militancy-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir.

Though over 80,000 people from Kashmir alone complained of depression during 2005-2006 with over three-fourths of them being diagnosed with serious psychological disorders, the state has just 13 experts dealing with mental health.
This has now made the Union health ministry decide to train all MBBS doctors in J&K in short-term courses to deal with psychiatric disorders. As part of its plan to revamp the National Mental Health Programme, which Union health minister A Ramadoss’s admits "isn’t doing well", the ministry has decided to train state health workers in identifying mental disorders besides creating a special 4-6-month-long training programme for MBBS doctors in identifying basic disorders before referring severe cases to specialists.

Ramadoss said, "India is facing an acute shortage of psychiatrists. While over 30,000 psychiatrists are required to serve a billion people, there are only 3,300 practising in the country, 80% of whom work in metros." With nearly one in 10 people reported having lost one or more members of their immediate family due to violence from 1989-2005 in J&K, a recent survey by Medecines Sans Frontiers found that nearly 48.1% people felt only occasionally or never safe. Respondents reported suffering from high levels of anxiety, nervousness, tension and extensive worrying.

The survey found respondents complaining of headaches (23.5%), body pains such as joint and back complaints (20.5%) and abdominal complaints (16.9%). Medicine consumption was also high, with over one-third taking six or more medicines in the previous 30 days.

Most of the people dealt with stress by isolating themselves (22.3%) or becoming aggressive (16%). Nearly 33.9% of those surveyed admitted to having thoughts about ending their life. This made the grand Mufti of Kashmir recently issue an edict terming suicide un-Islamic and asking people to stay away from the funerals of those who killed themselves.

"Over 8% of the Indian population is facing some sort of mental problem, of which over 1.5% needs special care. Suicide is a major threat with poverty, debt, illiteracy and violence being the main causes behind it. We plan to provide basic mental health training to doctors at the primary health care centres. The proposal would cover 400 districts in the next three years and all the districts within five years," Ramadoss said.

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