Sunday, January 27, 2008

Human Rights, Suicide, and Mental Health

Recently there have been some very interesting posts on The Langar Hall related to health and human rights that I wanted to highlight.

The first post is about the impact of torture on the health of individuals, specifically discussing an article, “The Effects of Torture-Related Injuries on Long-Term Psychological Distress in a Punjabi Sikh Sample” by a group of health professionals from Bellevue Hospital at NYU and Ensaaf. The article discusses the debilitating physical and psychological distress experienced by torture survivors. Many Panjabi Sikhs experienced various human rights violations at the hands of the Panjabi police, yet little information was gathered on their experiences (making it virtually impossible to offer them treatment). The article states that,
These findings emphasize connections between physical and psychological trauma and the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to torture treatment.
Another post highlighted the first People's Tribunal on Farmer Suicides in Panjab which allowed for an opportunity for men and women to openly relate their frustrations around the agrarian crisis leading to their relatives committing suicide. It was suggested that,
Indebtedness is the primal cause of farmers’ suicide in most parts of India, including Punjab.
The third is about how accessible mental health services are for the Panjabi community. It is quite clear to many contributors and readers of The Langar Hall that the prevalence of mental health issues within our community is increasing, and yet there is a disparity in the availability of culturally sensitive services for this community. In the past, our blog has highlighted various mental health issues inflicting our community and it is clear that we are only beginning to see the effects of not providing adequate care to a population at risk.

Another post was about Jaswant Singh Khalra, a human rights activist who I believe is one of the most important figures in Sikh history. Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra was instrumental in bringing the brutalities of the Panjab police to the surface. He advocated for Sikh men who had “disappeared” and was a voice for the many mothers and fathers who were missing sons. The blog highlights Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra’s final speech. Later that year,
Indian security forces abducted human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra because of his work exposing the disappearances and killings of thousands of Sikhs in Punjab. [Link]
He was subsequently tortured and murdered.

I hope you find these posts interesting and I encourage you contribute to the dialogue around these issues.

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