Women medicos opt psychiatry for a career in Kashmir

Women medicos opt  psychiatry for a  career in Kashmir

Female patients easily open up and explain their problems to women psychiatrists.

Psychiatrist was considered a mad man’s doctor in Kashmir, more so among women.

But the scenario is slowly changing. Till 2012, psychiatry was not a preferred medical speciality for female medicos in the Valley, as there was not even a single woman in this field.


In the last two years, four out of nine candidates, who have joined Psychiatry
Department of the Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar, are women.

It was Dr Yuman Kawoos, 28, who despite opposition from her friends and relatives, decided to go against the trend in 2012.

“It was a tough decision to pursue PG in psychiatry as I was among the toppers and could have chosen any branch. Friends and relatives criticised me when I told them I am joining psychiatry.

They told me I am among top 20 in the Common Entrance Test (CET) and I should choose a better branch,” Dr Kawoos told Deccan Herald at the Psychiatric Diseases Hospital in Srinagar.

“As there is stigma attached with psychiatry, my friends and relatives tried their best to dissuade me from opting for it,” she added.

Asked what prompted her to join psychiatry, she said: “I always wanted to work for the betterment of destitutes and there is no better field than psychiatry.”

The young psychiatrist said she is more than happy two years after she joined the department.

“After me, three more girls have joined this department, which is a welcome trend,” she said and added psychiatry in general is still not been considered an important medical speciality due to various societal apprehensions and ignorance.

Dr Kawoos’s views were echoed by Dr Insha Rauf, who joined the department last year.

“When I was pursuing MBBS, I developed interest in psychiatry. During my internship, I treated two psychiatric patients and then I decided that it is the best branch for me,” she said. 

Like her senior colleague, Dr Rauf was also dissuaded by her acquaintances when she chose psychiatry.

“People would tell me that I would be called doctor of mental patients. Even during the counselling, one of the counsellors asked me ‘Aur kuch nahi mila, yeha karna hein. (Didn’t you find anything suitable and you want to do this)’,” chuckling Insha said. “He (counsellor) tried to scare me saying one day a psychiatrist himself becomes pagal (mad).”

Dr Rauf said deliberate self-harm (DSH), which is an index of social deprivation, is closely linked with unemployment, overcrowding, substance misuse, physical and sexual abuse during childhood and domestic violence.

“There is a higher prevalence of DSH in women of all ages. The needs for safety, privacy and dignity of female patients in mental health units have been recognised worldwide,” she added.

Though women psychiatrists are in faculty positions in a number of medical colleges across the country and have held important positions in the Indian Psychiatric Society at different times, it will take long years in Kashmir before women will carve a niche for themselves in the field.

“The trend of increasing number of female doctors joining psychiatry in Kashmir is similar to the worldwide trend. The change may be recent in Kashmir, though it has existed worldwide for the last few decades. Women psychiatrists appear extremely interested and glad with their choice to be in this field,” Kashmir’s renowned psychiatrist Dr Arshid Hussain told Deccan Herald.

He termed women medicos taking psychiatry as important in Kashmir. “In psychiatry, if you don’t develop empathy with a patient, he/she doesn’t open up easily. And especially for female patients, women psychiatrist can be the best choice,” Dr Hussain said.

Tracing the history of women psychiatrists in Kashmir, he said, in 1970s Prof Erina Hoch from Switzerland worked as the first Professor and Head of undergraduate department of psychiatry in GMC, Srinagar, and the Medical Superintendent of the Psychiatric Hospital to
increase the awareness about the emotional disorders.

Dr Hussain said the trend of young women medicos taking psychiatry as a career should be encouraged. “Inclusion of women psychiatrists in education, training, research, clinical care, and policy-making will have influence on the mental healthcare system,” he added.

Dr Zaid Ahmad Wani, Associate Professor in GMC’s Psychiatry Department, said Kashmir, being a conservative society, needs women psychiatrists.

“It is mostly difficult for female patients who have sexual disorders to reveal them to a male psychiatrist. Also, it is difficult for a male psychiatrist to get proper history from a female patient with childhood abuse. But they easily confide in a female psychiatrist,” he said.

“Many female patients abused by their relatives during their childhood have
difficulty in telling psychiatrists. With women psychiatrists around now, we are finding that more women open up before them,” he revealed.

Dr Wani acknowledged that female post-graduates have really helped them in giving a better treatment to the patients.

“Since most of the patients visiting the psychiatric hospital are women, it beco­mes easier for them to relate to a female psychiatrist, thus starting an immediate therapeutic alliance,” he said and recommended that there should be a female psychiatrist in every district hospital.

“Also many of the patents who suffer from adjustment disorders related to the conflict at home are happy to relate their problems to a female than a male,”
Dr Wani added.

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