Girls Crying, Banging Heads in Uttarakhand Govt School: A Case of Mass Hysteria?
The district magistrate told The Quint that 'the students are currently stable and under observation at home.'
A 45-second-long video of around seven school girls crying, shouting, and banging their heads in a government school in Uttarakhand’s Bageshwar district surfaced on social media earlier this week.
The incident took place on Tuesday, 26 July. A team of doctors visited the school, and the district magistrate told The Quint that “the students are currently stable and under observation in their homes.”
Reema Joshi, the district magistrate, said that the incident took place in a government junior high school in Rakhauli. She said, "The students are stable now. They were given counselling and are still under observation. We are yet to ascertain what caused this and that might take a few more days since it appears to be psychological.”
In the video, the students, who are all in class 8, can be seen crying and banging their heads, almost as if in a frenzy. The students can be seen speaking gibberish, while those around them try to ask them to stop. A man was sprinkling holy water on them, said the school principal.
‘It started with one girl,’ says school principal
Neermala Verma, the school’s principal, told The Quint that the incident took place on Tuesday, 26 July, morning.
One girl came to me, and she was crying loudly. I asked her what happened. She did not give me any response but just went on crying. Soon, a few others started crying as well. One of them said that she had stomach-ache. They were uncontrollable. Some crawled under their tables. We then took them to the field and tried to calm them down.”Neermala Verma, school principal
Right after this, their parents were called to the school, and later, a team of doctors visited the school, said Verma. She said, “The doctors are still looking into it. So far, they have opined that it is psychological and could be a case of mass hysteria.”
On being asked if the students had undergone anything traumatic at school in the recent past that might have led to this, Verma said, “They have not seen or been through anything traumatic in school but they keep hearing stories that might have disturbed them. Stories of a woman killing herself in the jungle and a woman disappearing at night are so deeply entrenched in their minds that maybe that had an impact.”
‘It is psychological,’ say experts
While the exact cause is yet to be ascertained, Dr Srinivas Rajkumar, a consultant psychiatrist in Chennai, said that there are a few possible explanations for what happened.
“One of the possibilities is that the students disassociated due to stressful circumstances. This is not necessarily conscious but it could have been caused because of a neuro-biological vulnerability.”
He elaborated that this could perhaps be a case of “dissociative identity disorder,” which is a severe form of disassociation that can lead to a lack of connection in a person's thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, memories, or even a sense of identity.
Dr. Srinivas said that the word “hysteria” is no longer used by medical professionals because it has sexist roots.
Some of these behaviours are also culturally acceptable such as being in a trance at a religious gathering. Sometimes, children tend to model such behaviours. It is a human tendency to model those around you.Dr. Srinivas Rajkumar
Another possible cause, he said, is psychedelic substances in their food. However, he added that this might not be the case.
The school’s principal told The Quint that the doctors gave the students multivitamins. “The school is shut and the girls have been given a few days off from school,” she said.
Dr. Srinivas said explained that “it seems like it is a maladaptive way for the girls to express their angst.” He said that in the long run, “the students should be encouraged to express themselves, their angst and their pain in healthier manner.”
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