94.2% respondents of health study in IIOJK found to be suffering from anxiety

Srinagar, June 19 (KMS): A new study released in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) has raised an alarm as 94.2% of its respondents were found to be suffering from anxiety.

Titled ‘Severity of depression, anxiety, and stress among the people of Kashmir, India during COVID-19: An observation from telepsychiatric services’, the 2021 study has been published in Global Psychiatry, an internationally acclaimed medical journal.

A total of 293 people in the age bracket of 31-59 years were interviewed during the teleconsultation service. “The majority of participants had severe anxiety (94.2%), moderate depression (42.7%), and 48.5% were experiencing moderate to severe stress,” the study revealed.

The study stated that lockdown is routinely compounded by communications blackouts in the valley and this makes it even scarier and unsafe.

Dr Sheikh Shoib, Consultant Psychiatrist at JLNM Hospital, Rainawari, who is a co-author of the study, said the COVID-19 pandemic along with the lockdown has presented some exceptional and complex challenges in delivering mental health services in the valley.

“The provision of alternative treatments through technical adjustments, like online or telephonic consultation, can go a long way in delivering high-quality services,” he said.

Divulging the ordeal of one such patient in the study, Dr Sheikh Shoib, Consultant Psychiatrist at JLNM Hospital, Rainawari said that it was at hotel quarantine where 27-year-old medical student Sajid (name-changed) started exhibiting behavioral changes.

“He could hear the constant sound of ambulance sirens. Without realizing it, he even began keeping count of how many he would hear in a day. Then, one day, he started feeling breathlessness. His chest felt tight, his pulse started racing, and he was in the middle of a full-blown panic attack. This is when he called me on the hospital helpline number,” he added.

Similarly, a 50-year-year-old woman showed some worrying behavioral changes after her family member was found to be a COVID suspect.

“She was already going through psychological issues and the fear of contracting COVID-19 exacerbated her anxiety levels. With the result, she landed in moderate depression and sought our help through teleconsultation,” the doctor treating her said.

These are not isolated cases. There has been a steep rise in patients with mental illness in Kashmir since the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020.

The latest study conducted by Kashmir doctors at JLNM hospital has revealed that delivering mental health services to people during lockdown is a challenge.

Another co-author and community medicine specialist, Dr. Sheikh Mohammad Saleem said telehealth could increase the delivery of mental health services and may decrease the treatment gap for mental disorders.

“It can be a feasible approach. With minimum utilization of existing resources, the accessibility and affordability of mental health interventions can help the patients. It also decreases the burden on healthcare professionals delivering services in pandemics, and the risk of transmission of the disease is nullified,” Dr. Saleem said.

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