Joshimath sinking: Mental health issues compound trauma for displaced people

Insomnia, anxiety, depression and crippling uncertainty about the future. As days turn into weeks and the cracks in their city widen and deepen, hundreds of people displaced by subsidence in Joshimath and forced to live in relief camps grapple with a series of mental health problems, according to residents and experts.

With no end in sight to the crisis, hundreds of other residents of the fragile mountain town of Uttarakhand, still lucky enough to be at home, worry about whether they too will have to move to shelters, government-run hotels or just leaving town.

Last month’s land subsidence event had an impact on everyone. The main symptoms in those affected are insomnia and anxiety,” Dr. Jyotsana Naithwal, a psychiatrist from AIIMS Rishikesh deployed at Joshimath Community Health Center (CHC), told PTI in a phone interview. .
She is part of the team of three trained psychiatrists and a clinical psychologist deployed to the city of more than 20,000 people to help people deal with mental trauma.
Naithwal’s own home in Singhdhar region has developed cracks and she lives in a hotel with her family.
Studies have shown that natural tragedies such as landslides, earthquakes, and floods are traumatic and can lead to a wide range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety disorders, and post-stress stress disorder. trauma (PTSD).
Effective screening and awareness programs among survivors should be strengthened for the prevention and treatment of psychiatric morbidity among landslide survivors, the experts said.
According to Atul Sati, head of the Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (JBSS), fewer people are coming forward to report their problems because mental health is still a taboo subject.
“We had warned that a mental health epidemic was on the way. Many of the people our volunteers came into contact with are dealing with trauma and mental issues,” Sati told PTI.
Being forced to part with their damaged homes and the fear that they will never be able to return to the homes of their childhood leads to a whole host of problems.
Ask Neha Saklani, 19.
On February 3, just a month after Neha and her extended family of 14 moved into a hotel, her father received an anxious call informing him that their house had been razed.
“We all rushed to the scene and found it still intact. But the call only made the already anxious life we’ve been living worse since our house started to develop cracks nearly 200 years ago. one year,” Neha told PTI.
The Saklani family, who lived in the Sunil area on their way to the famous ski resort of Auli, said they were the first to report a landslide in Joshimath when their house cracked in May of Last year.
Neha’s mother recently underwent surgery at a local clinic, and the family don’t know how she can recover in their cramped hotel room.
“We can’t stop thinking about our house. Imagine the trauma of living in a sinking house for a year. It’s horrible,” she said.
“At the beginning, I couldn’t sleep. Even now, I sometimes feel depressed and anxious. My sister is not able to continue her studies. She wanted to join the university this year. I guess it will have to wait,” she said. PTI.
The closure of businesses in the city has added to extreme anxiety about what tomorrow will bring.
Suraj Kapruwan had a laundry in Manohar Van, which was badly damaged during the January 2 subsidence. He said he hadn’t slept a full night since.
I’m depressed and barely sleep at night. I can’t stop thinking about my business that I spent thousands of dollars on. No compensation is yet in sight. I don’t know how to deal with the situation,” the 38-year-old hotel management graduate told PTI.
Naithwal added that it is difficult to assess the burden of mental illness because people do not report symptoms to doctors, unlike other health conditions and symptoms can appear anytime for up to a year.
“We have been doing rounds in the affected areas. If someone has symptoms, a counselor helps them cope with relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises,” she told PTI.
“If someone has chronic symptoms, they are treated accordingly,” said the 32-year-old doctor.
According to Sati, the situation will only get worse if the authorities do not act faster and come up with a proper and speedy rehabilitation plan for the people of Joshimath.
According to him, the general situation in Joshimath has only gotten worse over the past month.
“Cracks in more houses have been reported recently. The cracks in the land around the danger zone have only gotten bigger,” he added.
The number of structures the government says have developed cracks so far stands at 868, an increase since Jan. 20, when the count was 863, Sati said.
Authorities estimate that currently 878 members of 243 affected families are in relief camps.
“Basic facilities like food, clean water, medicine etc. are being made available to the affected people in the relief camps,” according to DM Chamoli’s Twitter account.
“In Joshimath, an amount of Rs 505.80 lakh has been distributed so far for damaged buildings, special rehabilitation program, one-time special grant for transportation of goods and immediate needs and purchase of household materials as early relief to affected families,” another tweet on Thursday said.
However, Sati alleged that there were serious discrepancies in the official investigation of damages and compensation.
“Many people who deserved compensation did not receive it, while others who were not affected got it instead,” he added.
“Joshimath is not suitable for a township,” warned the report of the government-appointed Mishra committee in 1976 and recommended a ban on heavy construction work in the area.
The warning was not heeded. Over the decades, the place has exploded into a busy gateway for thousands of pilgrims and tourists.
Joshimath is a gateway to several Himalayan climbing expeditions, hiking trails and pilgrimage centers like Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib, and the Valley of Flowers, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been edited by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Joshimath sinking: Mental health issues compound trauma for displaced people

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