‘Kashmir orphans stressed, depressed’

They Are Deprived Of Adequate Facilities, Psychological Support: Survey

Greater Kashmir / ARIF SHAFI WANI
Publish Date: Dec 12 2012 12:00PM

Srinagar, Dec 11: In an alarming trend, most of the children living in orphanages in Kashmir suffer from psychiatric and emotional disorders including depression, a survey has revealed.
The survey has attributed the high rate of psychiatric and emotional disorders to orphanages failing to provide adequate facilities and psychosocial support to these children.
The survey conducted by a social activist, Qurat-ul-Ain Masoodi, who runs a voluntary group Aash, focuses on the prevalence of major psychiatric disorders and psychological distress among the children living in orphanages of Kashmir.
It is based on a sample of 140 children in various orphanages in Kashmir using various scales of psychiatric assessment including the Mini-International Neuro-psychiatric interview.
The study found among the orphans high prevalence of Separation Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Panic Disorder, Social Phobia and Conduct Disorder, Generalized Anxiety disorder and Dysthymia.
“These rates are somewhat higher than those found in previous studies done in Kashmir. This can be attributed to the orphanages which fail to provide adequate psychosocial support to these children,” Qurat states in the study.
UNICEF estimates that Kashmir has as many as 100,000 special or orphaned children. However an independent study by UK-based ‘Save The Children’ puts the number of orphans at 2.15 lakhs.
“These figures still seem to be conservative as very less information flows from distant areas. There is a high rate of mental health problems, predominantly those of emotional nature among orphanage children. This appears consistent with findings from studies with other groups of neglected, traumatized and institutionalized children, although the mechanisms may well differ. The most studied factor has been institutional privation and its impact on children’s social, cognitive and emotional development,” it states.
It states that high Post Traumatic Stress Disorder rates among the orphaned children is due to direct exposure to trauma and family loss due to the armed conflict in Kashmir.
“In Kashmir most of the orphans are the victims of armed conflict. The impact on their mental health has been inevitable phenomenon. There is presence of anxiety, stress, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among the children in Kashmir and orphans in particular. The need of the hour has resulted in an institutional care for orphans in the form of orphanage, but these orphanages are not desirable for orphans, as they are the result of armed conflict with strong psychological trauma,” it states.
“Empirical studies on children in an armed conflict show the determinant effects on children‘s mental health and wellbeing. The problems that emerge are internalizing violence which tends a child to perceive abnormal situations as normal ones.”
The survey states, using the Revised UCLA loneliness scale, almost 60 percent of children had severe loneliness, 25.7 percent had moderate loneliness while as 15 percent had little or no loneliness.
“We found that although the basic material needs could be met, orphans in orphanages were almost totally separated from the outside world and could not access normal families and society relations. This would very likely harm their personality in adulthood and social skills.”
“This study concludes that there is a high rate of psychiatric and emotional disorders (especially anxiety and depression) among children living in orphanages in Kashmir,” Qurat told Greater Kashmir.
She said it is high time for the government and civil society to play a role in making the life of orphans better. “Our behavior towards the orphans should be such that the sense of pity is not created in them so that they do not suffer from any kind of inferiority complex. Mohalla committees should be made one of the stake holders, so that they play a vital role in the right upbringing of the orphans,” she said.