1Professor and Head, 2Research Assistants, Institute of Psychiatry, Kolkata, India.
Aims: This study attempts to examine the extent and impact of human-animal conflicts visa-vis psychosocial stressors and mental health of affected people in two villages adjacent to Sundarban Reserve Forest (SRF) in the Gosaba Block, West Bengal, India.
Methods: Door to door household survey for incidents of human-animal conflicts, Focus Group Discussions, In-depth Interviews, Case studies, Community Mental health clinics and participatory observation.
Results: A total of 3084 households covering a population of 16,999 were surveyed. 32.8% people live on forest-based occupation. During the last 15 years 111 persons (male 83, female 28) became victims of animal attacks, viz, Tiger (82%), Crocodile (10.8%) and Shark (7.2%) of which 73.9% died. In 94.5% cases the conflict took place in and around the SRF during livelihood activities. Tracking of 66 widows, resulted from these conflicts, showed that majority of them (51.%) are either disabled or in a very poor health condition, 40.9% are in extreme economic stress and only 10.6% remarried. 1 widow committed suicide and 3 attempted suicide. A total of 178 persons (male 82, female 96) attended the community mental health clinics. Maximum cases were Major Depressive Disorder (14.6%), followed by Somatoform Pain Disorder (14.0%), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-animal attack related (9.6%) and Adjustment Disorder (9%). 11.2% cases had history of deliberate self-harm attempt, of which 55% used pesticides.
Conclusions: Improvement of quality of life of this deltaic population by appropriate income generation and proper bio-forest management are the key factors to save their life as well as the mangrove environment of the Sundarban region.
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