Lahore: Mental disorders likely in airport neighbourhood

* Doctors say noise levels near airports exceed safe limits
* Punjab University professor says exposure to high noise levels causes anxiety, followed by depression

By Abdul Manan

LAHORE: “It’s the planes,” Sakina says as she talks of her depression and how she is fighting suicidal thoughts.

Thirty-year-old Sakina, who lives near Lahore airport, told Daily Times that doctors had diagnosed her with depression, which they told her was caused by the noise of airplanes flying at low levels. She said, “I was perfectly normal before I moved into this house. The location seemed attractive at first and initially we enjoyed seeing the planes flying just overhead, but after some time, the noise became unbearable.” Sakina said that she had recurrent suicidal thoughts and nightmares, which forced her to go to a psychiatrist.

Sakina is now an active member of civic groups and speaks on mental health issues. “I didn’t know anything about mental illness,” she said. But after she was diagnosed with depression, she educated herself on the subject. She said that when people knew about her diagnosis, they started avoiding her “as if my condition was contagious”. She said, “People should realise that such attitudes only serve to make the patient’s condition worse and leads to hopelessness and low self-esteem. Sakina said that she was considering leaving the colony.

Dr Khurshid Ahmad, an environmentalist at the University of Engineering and Technology, told Daily Times that the noise of airplanes was over bearable levels within a radius of 16 kilometres from the airport. He said that the noise levels in this area reached as high as 110 decibels (dB) while the permissible level is at 85 dB.

Architect Syed Sher Ali criticised the large number of housing societies being built near Lahore airport. He said housing societies should always be established away from airports and laws should be made in this regard.

Anxiety followed by depression: Dr Najma Najam, professor of Applied Psychology at Punjab University, said, “Airports all over the world are situated at the outskirts of cities, but in Lahore, the airport has been made right in the middle of expensive housing societies.” She said extended exposure to high levels of noise caused anxiety, followed by depression. She said that the lack of awareness about environmental issues was causing mental disorders among Lahoris. The professor said that people had recorded noise levels as high as 120 dB and 140 dB near the airport.

Dr Ayesha, a clinical psychologist, said that all airport employees have high stress levels because of constant exposure to the roar of airplanes’ engines. She said that exposure to such high noise levels weakened people’s nerves and that sensitive people were more vulnerable. She said the imbalance between peace and anxiety caused mental disorders.

Source: Daily times, 22/7/2008

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