Srinagar: When a 34-year-old businessman from the civil lines area returned home from the hospital quarantine, he was greeted with hostile stares and shifty glances from those who were once “friendly neighbors and relatives”.
“I was already suffering from anxiety due to the lockdown. My business has been in shambles. After testing positive for coronavirus, the isolation period came as another trauma. I worried about my family and wasn’t sure how her disease would run its course,” he said.
Such was the bouts of anxiety that he thought of ending his life. “A week following the discharge, I got up in the middle of the night and took an extra dose of Clonazepam-Escitalopram from my mother’s medicines. Cold response from the people made me so distressed that I wanted to take my life,” he said.
The fight is not over. He is fatigued and sleeps long hours. “This has happened because of the drug overdose, and effects will subside with time. It is people’s response I can’t come to terms with. They look at me as if I am a thing to look at,” he said.
Similarly, Umar, 25, (name changed), a chronic heroin addict was rushed to the hospital in May when he slit his wrists and was found lying unconscious in his room.
“He was heavily dependent on drugs and smoking. Due to the unforeseen break in his pattern of consumption in the wake of lockdown, he often faced a range of cognitive and physical symptoms. The will to seek treatment was too weak and when he couldn’t take it anymore, he chose to take his life,” said a doctor examining him.
The doctor noted that drugs and nicotine trigger the release of serotonin in the brain’s reward system, which makes them so addictive.
“Serotonin or the ‘feel good’ neurochemical is a mood enhancer. The short-term effect of alcohol may boost serotonin, to increase feelings of happiness and wellbeing, while the long-term repercussions of heavy alcohol use often include a decrease in serotonin production leading to an increased chance of depression,” he said.
After the Bollywood actor, Sushant Singh Rajput committed suicide last Sunday, the discussion revolving around anxiety and depression has taken center stage across the country including the valley.
Dr. Junaid Nabi Bhat, Consultant Psychiatrist, Government Psychiatric Hospital told The Kashmir Monitor that people need to move away from an “anti-psychiatry” attitude and seek help.
“But due to entrenched patriarchy, vulnerable groups, such as women and children, are often deemed to be overreacting or seeking attention. There is no support system for depressed people since it involves time and money, causing them to believe that they’re a burden on the family,” Dr. Junaid said.
Soon after the death of Sushant, Nodal Officer, Government Medical College Srinagar, Dr. Salim Khan took to Facebook and wrote about suicides in Kashmir. “Suicide death, here and there: Suicide by a TV and the movie star has shocked many while a person with ‘substance use disorder’ also committed suicide in Kashmir today,” he said.
Dr. Khan pointed out that it is really difficult for such persons to get regular supplies and money in these pandemic times, which can force them to become a peddler and lure young ones.
“Especially children are lured towards drug addiction. Parents and communities need to be aware and more cautious, especially when children can’t find means of entertainment beyond smartphones,” he said.
Senior IPS officer Basant Rath also took to Twitter voicing his concern on mental health. “When I was going through depression and contemplating suicide in 1994, I reached out to a psychiatrist. I didn’t rely on my girlfriends or boyfriends or family members to help me survive those two years. People, relatives, or friends can’t replace professional therapists. Please,” he said.