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Marathwada: A de-addiction centre for farmers drawn to alcoholism

Data gathered from the public health department showed 879 cases of addiction were recorded in the 14 drought-hit and suicide-prone districts of Maharashtra in the last six months.

Written by TABASSUM BARNAGARWAL | Mumbai |
May 18, 2016 2:42:56 am
A farmer in Latur district. Manoj More A farmer in Latur district. Manoj More

In Vidarbha and Marathwada, 841 farmers have been admitted for depression in various government hospitals and 4,607 in total referred on out-patient basis for the same. The prolonged drought, with rising incidence of cases of clinical depression, has spurred fears of alcoholism among the worst-hit, resulting in a dedicated de-addiction centre to be set up in Osmanabad for the Marathwada region.

Data gathered from the public health department showed 879 cases of addiction were recorded in the 14 drought-hit and suicide-prone districts of Maharashtra in the last six months. Among these, cases of addiction have been highest in Buldhana (256), Washim (164), Jalna (112) and Osmanabad (79). These are also districts with significant cases of depression.

“The drought situation leads to hopelessness. For farmers in rural areas, emotional expression of depression is difficult. It is natural for them to turn towards alcoholism,” said Dr Shubhangi Parkar, head of psychiatry unit at Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial hospital, who is now coordinating with the government on the new de-addiction centre in Osmanabad’s Civil Hospital.

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In the first four months this year, the toll for farmer suicides has exceeded 400 in Marathwada and 360 in Vidarbha region.

The new centre will help increase coverage especially in Latur division, which is currently battling severe drought and has witnessed 246 farmer suicides in Latur, Osmanabad, Beed and Nanded. “The centre will provide an early intervention in handling addiction and depression cases. We hope to prevent suicides by positive treatment,” added Parkar.

The state government has, however, also realised the need of re-training its Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers involved in identifying depressed farmers. Anuradha Papde, an ASHA in Andur village, has only been able to identify two farmers suffering from depression since October 2015. “I am sure there are more but we are unable to identify them. There was just one training given to us to diagnose possible depressed farmers which was very short,” said Papde.

In Osmanabad, ASHA Rajshri Sakhare said that male farmers often lie about their financial problems in front of female workers, which makes the process of diagnosing difficult. The ASHA workers are supposed to get a 12-point questionnaire answered by farmers and report to local public health centres if they feel the farmer is depressed. “But if a farmer lies, there is no way to understand their depression,” said Sakhare.

According to joint director Dr Sadhana Tayade, Directorate of Health Services, re-training sessions will now start in all 14 districts. “We realised on our visits that there is a need for intensified training. We have also directed all ASHA workers to dial 104 if they find a case of depression,” she said.

Beed has so far reported the highest cases of depression amongst farmers at 259 followed by Jalna (201) and Buldhana (157). Hospital admissions due to hypertension in these 14 districts from October 2015 till March 31 this year stood at 2,270, for heart diseases at 676 and for stroke at 247 patients. A total of 16.2 lakh farmers and their families were screened in government hospitals in the same period.

 

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