International News

Florida club shooting: Islamic State claims responsibility for firing that killed 50 people

Omar Mateen had taken several hostages after opening fire in an Orlando nightclub, in an attack that appears to be the worst ever mass shooting in US history.

A gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub called Pulse in Orlando, Florida, killing 50 people late on Saturday night. At least 53 people were injured in the attack by a man identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, an American citizen living in Port St Lucie, Florida. The Islamic State has taken responsibility for the shooting in its news agency, Amaq. "The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter," Amaq was reported as saying by Reuters.

Mateen was killed by police in a gunbattle inside the club. He had reportedly taken hostages after he shot at people inside the club. The incident is being called an act of terror by investigative agencies.

As the attack began at 2 am (local time), the club urged patrons to flee. “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running,” the Facebook page of Pulse Cub posted. Orlando Police Chief John Mina told reporters, "It appears he was organised and well-prepared," the chief said, adding that the shooter had an assault-type weapon, a handgun and "some type of (other) device on him." Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told the media said he had declared a state of emergency for Orlando, and that he also asked the governor to do the same for the state, CNN reported.

Social media has been flooded with videos showing injured people being treated outside the club in Orlando. The police said they are responding to the situation with several emergency vehicles already stationed at the spot, reported the Orlando Sentinel. A bomb squad and teams that deal with hazardous materials were also sent to the scene. Mina also said that the investigation is likely to be lengthy because of the number of victims.

Many victims remain unidentified, while families await news from officials about their relatives. Though the reason for the shooting remains unknown, Congressman Alan Grayson has said it was "no coincidence" the attack happened in a gay club.

The attack, which some agencies are calling "the deadliest mass shooting in US history", incidentally comes a day after The Voice singer Christina Grimmie was shot dead at a concert venue also in Orlando. However, the two shootings do not appear to be related.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.