At God’s Mercy

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The first counseling for a patient suffering from stressful situation is at home. But when the same home turns into a hell-hole, a patient is left at God’s mercy. Saima Bhat, reports the pain and suffering of such patients

Areeba, 35, spends her days either sitting or sleeping on her veranda to bask in the sun. She doesn’t talk to anybody. She looks emotionless. No news changes her straight facial expressions. She is struggling with her psychiatrist problems from last twenty years now.

Her cousin, Sehar who was her batch-mate as well, recalls Areeba as most beautiful girl of her family. “You won’t believe but she looked just like Bollywood actor Kareena Kapoor. But now she is obese, must be around 80 kgs.”

As a student Areeba, who was enrolled at one of the top missionary schools in Srinagar, used to spend most of her time playing games. She was an average student which irked her parents often.

Sehar recalls Areeba’s problems started when they were in Class 6 and scored just 40 percent marks. Her parents were warned to admit her in any other school. Same evening, as a punishment, her parents beat her up and stopped talking to her. Their behaviour was rude towards her while as her siblings: sister and brother enjoyed all love. That was the time, Areeba started living in solitude. And in next three years she was lost forever.

As indifferent attitude at home continued, Areeba’s performance didn’t improve, instead, her grades plummeted.

A year later, when school authorities again complained about her grades, her parents decided to go harsh on her.

“That evening, a hot iron was put on Areeba’s back. I still remember those cries. After that episode she never smiled,” recalls Sehar.

Deprived of any medical assistance initially Areeba’s case became complicated. She started getting extreme mood swings. Shouting, crying was a normal affair but her parents left her unattended till the day she went missing from her house in Rawalpora.

Same evening her parents received a call from Baramulla, where Areeba was seen by a neighbour in her slippers. Once home, she was first beaten and then with the intervention of relatives, she was taken to a faith healer, who said she was under the shadow of fairies. Faith healer’s treatment couldn’t help her so her parents kept her in a locked room. Her days started with crying to let her breathe in fresh air. Nobody was there to understand her pleas. One moment she was seen crying and another moment she would laugh uncontrollably. “Her parents consulted a physician who referred her for counseling but she was never given medicines neither was a psychiatrist consulted.”

Sehar recalls how Areeba started complaining that somebody is ‘tracking her movements’. But her parents punished her again thinking, ‘She is having an affair. They thought that it is the same boy who is coming to meet her.’ “But nobody ever saw any boy. It was all in her thoughts,” said Sehar.

While her parents neglected Areeba, her siblings too turned emotionless towards her. “They believed whatever their parents told them. They never understood their sister’s pain.”

As days passed Areeba was served her meals in her room, sometimes her parents forgot to send her food as well.

Finally after 15 years, Areeba’s parents sought psychiatric help for her. “Doctors kept on saying treatment might take time to show results,” says Abdul Rasheed, her father, who is a wholesale retailer in Lal Chowk. He was suggested to keep Areeba in mental asylum but he didn’t agree because of the taboo.

“My younger daughter is engaged. If her in-laws get to know about Areeba, I don’t know how they are going to behave,” says Rasheed.

However Sehar has a different take on this: “Areeba is presently treated to remain unconscious, so that she doesn’t run away. But it is injustice. Nobody helps her to come out of this situation.”

Till February, 2017, there are 80 patients admitted in Psychiatric Hospital, Rainawari, out of them 12 are females.

The data from other Psychiatric Departments in state hospitals reveal that between April and December 2016, around 461 male patients were admitted for general psychiatric issues and 31 male patients were admitted for drug de-addiction. While as in female wards, 141 patients were admitted under general psychiatry.

As per data available with Kashmir Life, Srinagar district topped the list with admission of 194 patients in 2016, followed by 85 patients admitted in Baramulla, 59 in Pulwama, 56 in Islamabad, 55 in Budgam, 45 in Kupwara, 43 in Bandipora, 25 each in Shopian and Ganderbal, 23 in Jammu, 05 in Ladakh and 17 in Kulgam.

While as in OPD, 10,340 new patients visited general psychiatry in J&K, 16580 old patients had come for re-visits and 752 patients for drug de-addiction.

As per the hospital records, at least four male and two female patients have been declared fit to go home but their families are reluctant to take them back. In addition to that a few patients, who are non-state residents, have nowhere to go. A few of them, ‘unknown’ are from mainland India. There is one lady whom doctors think is from Pakistan, who is inaudible.

Javid Ahmad Kumar, a resident of old city in Srinagar, was first admitted in psychiatric hospital in 1996 when he was diagnosed with a mental condition, schizophrenia. But his problems started in 1988 when he was in Class 10. His inability to pass Class 10 exams changed his behaviour.

He still remembers those days when people in his locality used to call names and he was subjected to bullying. That behaviour landed him in hospital for two years after which he was discharged. After 10 years Kumar was back in hospital but this time as a dreaded ‘razor man’ who is still infamous with this name in the hospital. He targeted three people, including two kids, with a blade.

He first attacked an aged man, Sajad Ahmad of Doda, on September 10, 2008, inside Dastgeer Sahib Shrine. The next day he targeted an 8-year-old Mubarak Shah. Later that evening, he reappeared on the streets, wounding a nine-year-old boy, Yaseer Iqbal Bakshi at Kalashpora. These attacks forced police to launch a manhunt to nab the accused. After two days he was arrested.

Arrested with a packet of blade, Kumar, after twists and turns was again admitted in the mental hospital where he was put under treatment. Exactly after eleven years, when doctors at psychiatric hospital claims Kumar is fit to go home, his family is reluctant to take him home. But nobody wants Javaid back despite being so close to his home.

He believes his sibling and mother fear that nine pills a day would stops with his homecoming. But hospital records narrate a different story. In ward No 1 of the psychiatric hospital, Kumar is now “fit and fine”. His hospital file, which is thick in comparison to the other patient’s file, has pages stapled. It says, at least 25 times the hospital staff have approached his family who are reluctant to take him home.

“We have even given the bail bond in Kumar’s case but still his family doesn’t take him home,” says a hospital source.

In the outdoor patients department (OPD), the data shows male patients visit psychiatric hospital more than females, but as per various studies done at the post graduation level in the hospital, more females have psychiatric problems.

Dr Muzaffar Ahmad says psychiatric ailments increased in Kashmir division post 1989 when patients used to come with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) but the trend stands changed. “Now we get to see more female patients who come with anxiety and stress problems and males with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.”

“We have more female patients in OPD than males but we don’t admit females usually because their families are not comfortable. There is a social stigma attached to psychiatric hospital or even treatment,” says Dr Muzaffar.

But the senior psychiatrist Dr Arshid Hussain says that in severe mental illness, the family psychology is huge which is not shared by anybody be it social, economic or psychological.

While sharing details of a patient who was suffering from severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) from last 20 years, Dr Arshid says, last time this patient visited him in his OPD, he first listened to him for 15 minutes but then he torn all his prescriptions and threw them on doctor’s face. “That was his frustration of 20 years. I can understand his feelings but families don’t understand it at times.”

While quoting famous writer Lawrence, Dr Arshid says, ‘When he visited Kashmir, he found Kashmiri Pandits only in mental asylum but couldn’t find any Kashmiri Muslim. But when he moved to villages he found them everywhere,’ which means “Kashmiri Muslim families were better who took better care of these patients at home and concealed it but now the situation has changed with the nuclearisation of families.”

“There should be alternative support system for the families of such patients who couldn’t afford treatments,” added Dr Arshid.

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