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Mobile services in Jammu & Kashmir were shut down on August 5 this year
Mobile services in Jammu & Kashmir were shut down on August 5 this year|File image
OPINION

Curfew in Kashmir taking a toll on mental health of locals

There has been increase in patients experiencing anxiety, stress sufferings, loneliness, frustration, abnormalities in behaviour and fear of army raids, tortures and arrest

Safura Amin

It has been days since the Indian government announced abrogation of Article 370 of Constitution of India. Kashmiris are confined to the four walls of their house, there is no communication, Internet and few people in valley have land lines otherwise it is blackout for all. Thousands of people have been detained from August 5 and the worst part for family is that they have no information of their well-being.

According to reports, there has been increase in patients experiencing anxiety, stress sufferings, loneliness, frustration, abnormalities in behaviour and fear of army raids, tortures and arrest but even after suffering so much there seems to be a different mind-set among people of Kashmir which have developed from many years now that they seek human warmth by gathering with others which help them overcome the exile and suffering that government has brought thus they become united by this.

The people try to exercise their free will and act as though that being captive in cages have no side- effects on them and show care for each other suffering and loss. I have never seen so much of love and care for the fellow people like I see in Kashmir, may be this is the reason I don’t fly outside the cage I am in from so many days.

But in reality the forces in Kashmir have been continuously increasing and removing the freedom of its inhabitants through its oppressive nature and constant state of fear and danger that the citizens of Kashmir are living on daily basis. If we draw a contrast between the old times and now we can see the increase in the number of army has been drastic. It had a booming tourism business industry, people were given complete freedom, except for government imposed regulations however with the passage of time the situation has been worsened and these freedoms have been continually destroyed one by one until the people are left with little freedom to act in the face of formless oppressive presence.

Each action of the government is a deliberate calculation meant to downplay the prominence and omnipresence of the freedom. In return people through their united mind-set of fear and yearning for human warmth, have regained the confidence and are ready to walk the dark streets, their lives have become devoid of the freedom that it one possessed.

The power of Article 370 has been forcibly stripped away by the government regulation and people on the other side represent the freedom they once had. Thus, the people are forced to constantly remember that they at one point possessed freedom, only to be confronted with the grim reality that they no longer do. This lack of freedom has not only limited the actions of the people but it has deteriorated free will as well.

The importance of freedom is emphasised because without it, the inherently meaningless nature of the world comes to characterize those who are oppressed as they no longer have any ways to take action and accept responsibilities for those actions. Thus, a cycle is formed in which this complete oppression robs the people of their free will, further causing them to lose all interest in freedom and cease their struggles to regain freedom, leaving the oppressed with nothing more than vacant which renders them incapable of acting for themselves by forcing them to do nothing all day.

Although most psychology researchers say that social relationship and positive attitude plays an important role in the life of people. Recent studies have demonstrate that involvement in social relationships benefits health, there is a connection between social relationships and mortality and that the lack of social connections is as influential a mortality risk factor as traditional health-related indicators such as use of alcohol, smoking, or obesity. Small social networks, infrequent social contacts, absence of confidante connections, living alone, and lack of participation in social activities are criteria that have been used to define social isolation.

Research indicates that social relationships can affect health and mortality in different ways. There are three general pathways by which social ties operate to influence health behavioural effect, psycho-social effect and physiological effect.

Social ties might affect health-related behaviours in part because they provide information and create norms that further influence health habits. Psychosocial mechanisms include, for example, social support, personal control, symbolic meanings and norms, and mental health. Physiological processes refer to immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular functions of the body, all of which are related to physiological systems engaged in stress responses. Socially active and connected persons are found to be characterized by lower stress levels than those who are socially isolated and lonely.

Positivity is the mind-set that helps produce emotions such as joy, amusement, happiness, serenity, gratitude and inspiration. Negative emotions really hit us like a sledgehammer. They are really much more intense and attention grabbing than our positive emotions, which are comparably more subtle.

I think of positive emotions as nutrients. In the same way that we need to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to be healthy, we need a variety of positive emotions in our daily experience to help us become more resourceful versions of ourselves.

According to Fredrickson, certain things tend to universally help us to feel more positive for example spending more time with people; whether people are introverted or not, we found that everybody feels more uplifted and alive when they are social than when they are alone..

‘If we take positive emotions more seriously and schedule our days so that we know there are certain events, like if I see people go for a run in nature or spend time on their favourite hobby, those things bring joy. If we prioritise those in our days, we can do better.’

But we Kashmiris being house arrested from months now are left with little choices to balance our mental health. We are not able to use our abilities in harmony with the universal values of society, to be able to express one’s own emotions as well as empathize with the loss of others. We all are living under the influence of this traumatic and prolonged stress of house confinement which is moving us all towards mental illness.

The uncertainty and tension around us has revived the illness. I see thousands of people waiting in hospital for appointment to psychiatry. Most of people sleep in a day as they have nothing to do but in night are unable to sleep so take sleeping pills. There is also a fear of being arrested or hit by bullets or teargas shell which gives mothers a reason not to wake their kids from this abnormal pattern of life style. Now situation is such that people do not communicate with their families also because there is nothing positive to say. We Kashmiris have become so resilient to pain, feelings and emotions that there will be a point where it will be beyond repair.

(The author is a practising advocate at J&K High Court, Srinagar and can be reached at safurabhat15@gmail.com. Views expressed are the author’s own.)