Women make up 75 percent of those who visit Herat regional mental health hospital for counseling and psychotherapy, officials at the hospital said.
Of more than 250 who visit the hospital daily, 75 percent are women, said Wahid Noor, the director of Herat regional mental health hospital. He added most working women and female university students suffer from depression and anxiety because they haven’t been allowed to return to work or their classes in the past seven months.
Among those women who visits the mental health clinic regularly is Farzana, a 20-year-old university student at Herat University. She said she has lost hope about the future, and her dreams were shattered overnight after the Taliban’s return to power. She was a third-year student, but she hasn’t been able to return to university like thousands of others.
“I felt isolated after the university doors were closed, I even don’t speak with my mother,” she said recently when she visited the hospital. “I have been thinking about killing myself due to severe depression.”
Taliban have imposed restrictions on women since they seized power. They banned secondary education for girls and haven’t allowed female university students to return to their classes.
Taliban have promised that they will reopen schools and universities for girls in the spring. They also have said women can return to work if they observe proper hijab.
But Farzana doesn’t trust them. She said she see no future under the Taliban regime.
“I have tried many times to cut myself with a knight,” she added.
Robaba, another woman who has been visiting Herat’s mental health hospital for counseling in the past three months, said she used to work for a non-governmental organization before the Taliban, but now she has lost her job. She added by dissolving the ministry of women affairs, the Taliban automatically cancelled the work permits of many women.
“I could pay my family’s expenses when I worked with a foreign organization, but it is painful that I have no income now,” she said in a phone interview.
She visits a psychiatrist at the hospital to keep her spirit up, so she can continue living.
Wahid Noor, the director of Herat regional mental health hospital, said the number of mentally and psychologically ill women have increased seven percent in the province compared to the previous solar year. Women who visit mental health hospitals are between 14 to 35 years old.
He adds that in the past, the main reasons behind women’s mental illness were forced, underage marriages, and domestic violence, but now two more reasons have been added to the list: unemployment and lack of access to education.
Of 250 daily visitors, 50 are being hospitalized, according to him.
Shabana, 26, a visitor to the hospital, said her husband has lost his job, and he resorts to domestic violence at home.
It’s unclear what the Taliban may decide about the future of women, who work outside their homes, girl’s education, and their social freedoms. But Afghan women have little hope that the Taliban would change their policies toward women.
They deprived women of education and the right to work when they first rule over Afghanistan in the 1990s.
*The name of some interviewees are changed on their requests.