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Mental Health in Pakistan: Social Taboo

Mental Health in Pakistan

Mental health subject is still considered taboo. Mental illness is a major contributor to many disabilities in the global burden of diseases. In Pakistan, mental health has been a subject of debate for the last few decades. The incidence and prevalence have both staggeringly increased because of heightening problems such as growing insecurity, terrorism, economic, political uncertainty, unemployment, sinking poverty, domestic abuse, unhealthy lifestyle, gender discrimination, and disruption of the social fabric.

Mental Health On Global Level

On a Global scale, mental health problems are more severe in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LAMIC), almost 80% of the total mental health patients reside in such countries. According to the study based on the mental health of Pakistan conveyed, nearly 10- 16% of the population (more than 14 million) suffers from mild to moderate psychiatric illness and 1-2% from severe illness, where the majority of affected ones are women and children. Unfortunately, due to massive negligence, shortage of skilled workers, and little investment in the related domain, Pakistan has only one psychiatrist for every 10,000 persons suffering from any the mental disorders, while one child psychiatrist for four million children, who are estimated to be suffering from mental health issues. Only four major psychiatric hospitals exist for a population of 180 million and it is one the major factors behind increase in the number of patients with mental disorders.

With such arising alarming figures in the country, there’s a dire need of implementing strategies to improve mental health management to minimize the crisis.

According to recent studies about the current state of mental health, around 75% of mental illness starts before a child reaches their 18th birthday. Promoting mental health in early life is now necessary to prevent because of the alarming causes such as exam stress, lessened outdoor activities, upsetting content on social media platforms, cyberbullying, reduced interaction, demanding pressures on young people, and covid-19 pandemic disruptions. Prioritizing teachers and parental involvement can have a positive impact by encouraging social interaction and wellness training sessions with children to reduce mental health problems in the early childhood sector.

Mental Health in Pakistan; A social Taboo

Speaking about mental health subjects is still considered taboo. Lack of awareness and negative concepts about psychiatry care are huge barriers to probe because many people associate mental health issues with supernatural causes, witchcraft, or the evil eye. This thought process restrains sufferers from accessing mental health services in Pakistan. Mental health awareness should be widely educated to everyone especially at the schooling level for better health. Many experts suggest that educating on mental health management techniques is a requisite for everyone to maintain a balanced lifestyle. Integrating counseling sessions, cognitive behavior therapy, and family-based cognitive therapies could help to convert the stigmatized situation.

Deaths due to mental illness

It is estimated that 14.3% of deaths worldwide, or approximately 8 million deaths each year, are allocated to mental illness. Most of the deaths occurred due to suicidal attempts which is a direct outcome of mental related disorders. According to the Mental Health ATLAS 2017, Pakistan’s suicidal mortality rate is 2.9 per 100,000 population and Disability-adjusted life years (per 100,000 population is around 2,430.27). Almost 34% of the Pakistani population suffer from common mental disorders and depression is implicated in more than 90% of suicides. However, there are no official statistics for mental mortalities estimated from higher authorities. Most of the statistics are provided by the non-governmental organization’s surveys.

Pakistan’s Contribution and Initiatives

On the positive side, Pakistan’s government, and informal organizations are contributing diversely to enhance awareness in mental health services. The Mental Health Innovation Network is aiming to integrate counseling sessions and psychological training at various health clinic networks with a task-sharing approach within low-resourced communities of Pakistan. The improvement inaccessibility of mental care will enhance chances to treat more patients and can also assist to lift out some workload from frontline psychiatric practitioners and counselors.

In 2019, Pakistan’s President Dr. Arif Alvi had introduced two Mental Health Programs to emphasize the mental health importance in Pakistan. First, psycho-social intervention is the WHO Thinking Healthy Programme for mothers and the second intervention is the WHO School Mental Health Programme adapted for Pakistan. This program consists of training teachers in skills with a strategic approach to promote mental health in their schools and the early recognition and management of mental health problems. These interventions are planned to be rolled out across all four provinces of Pakistan within 5 years span.

Furthermore, to integrate technologies with mental health issues several organizations has taken a step ahead to combat the relating problems, some of them are addressed below:

  • Umang Pakistan is the country’s very first 24/7 mental health helpline accessible for everyone which is totally free of cost.
  • IRD – Pursukoon Zindagi program is another initiative that focuses majorly on depression and other mental disorders with a novel approach and offers free counseling sessions in low-income communities.
  • Saving 9 empowers communities in various ways. They work to ensure the physical and mental safety of citizens by enabling them with the tools, resources and knowledge needed to save a life through an intensive training of mental health emergencies.

Although, efforts are being made to provide conducting environment. Still, Pakistan is far behind in achieving the standards. However, with the help of higher authorities and the community, the change can lead to beneficial outcomes in the future.

Sadaf Ahmad is the Intern Content Writer at STUDENTINN SOLUTIONS

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