PTSD in Kashmir

Photographs & Text by Robert Nickelsberg

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Indian-ruled Kashmir has one of the highest rates of post traumatic stress disorder in the world. Since 1989 when the armed conflict began, over 70,000 people have died and more than 8,000 have disappeared. With both Islamic militants and Indian security forces being held responsible for the turmoil, the results of the violence has caused a chronic trauma that affects nearly all of Kashmir’s four million Muslims, countless numbers of Hindu and Sikh residents and those displaced.

For over two decades, many of Kashmir’s medical doctors and psychiatrists have fled the violence. The condition of the state’s mental health programs has deteriorated. Public and private hospitals and mental health clinics are overwhelmed with the numbers of patients. Pain, depression and anxiety are the norm. Kashmir now faces a rising drug addiction and suicide rate. To cope, many Kashmiris seek spiritual relief through prayer at traditional Sufi shrines and with peers or faith healers. Many Kashmiris in their early 20’s have known nothing other than violence and horrific stories of disappeared family members and friends. Slowly, government recognition and assistance is beginning to materialize with the opening of a drug de-addiction center in Srinagar, the state’s summer capital.