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January 12, 2018

Senior psychiatrist says war on terror has left most people traumatised


January 12, 2018

PESHAWAR: A noted psychiatrist, Professor Dr Khalid Mufti, has said the war on terror left most people traumatised apart from causing immense human and material loss to the country over the last 17 years.

“It has created so much stress that its after-effects have made both Pakistanis and Afghans mentally upset and caused them mental disorders. These include post-traumatic stress disorder as well depressive disorder,” said the senior psychiatrist.

He was speaking at the fourth Board of Governors (BoG) meeting of the Horizon, a welfare-based non-governmental organisation which has been working in the mental health sector since its launch in 1987. The meeting was arranged to review the activities undertaken by the organization last year and share with the members the doings planned for the next year.

Citing, what Dr Khalid Mufti believed, the worst kind of effect which he had noticed was an increase in number of children suffering from depression.

“The percentage of children suffering from depressive illness almost 18 years ago was hardly one percent. Now the ratio is 13 percent,” added the expert who is a member of The Royal College of Psychiatrists, Fellow of Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK) and Fellow of American Psychiatric Society.

The senior psychiatrist, who is also chairman of the Horizon, said the surveillance data from a sister organisation, Ibadat Hospital Peshawar indicated there was 13 per cent increase in number of children of Waziristan who had suffered from effects of trauma like depression, behavior problems, anger and few of them had even attempted suicides.

“Such a situation usually happens in regions which are faced with a prolonged war-like situation. Our country has gone through turbulent times because of the terror incidents and that is why we are facing this situation,” he argued.

Dr Khalid Mufti deplored that not all the people turn to mental health experts for remedy as most of them either continued to discount the issue as insignificant or were helpless.

“Just a fraction of the people with such illnesses approaches psychiatrists. The situation can be improved if different sections of the society are engaged at different levels to deal with the mental health issues,” he explained.

The doctor laid stress on awareness-raising. “The messages disseminated through the mainstream media — print, electronic (both radio and television) and social media — are well received. These can change the attitudes towards the mental health problems,” he added.

“It is an established fact that our country is deficient in psychologists and psychiatrists who can carry out counseling. We need to make everybody in the society such as mothers, teachers and journalists, good counselors. Teachers, in particular, should be trained in counseling and good guidance techniques. They can really do wonders,” said Dr Khalid Mufti.

The expert called for workshops, training courses with a good feedback. “Motivational talks should be delivered at the educational institutions. Trainings for teachers will improve their life skills.

The ultimate beneficiaries will be students who will be able to combat psychological issues,” he said while elaborating on the suggestion.

The doctor underlined hand-on psychotherapy and counseling. “The social situation, the family situation, the cognitive aspects and school problems, whichever comes first, should be tackled by setting priorities,” he emphasised.

The expert said we do not need any well-experienced psychologist or psychiatrist for that. “A person who can use common sense psychology in day-to-day life with few technical skills will suffice. We need to keep our eyes and ears open and try to create an atmosphere in our families. We must have a common sense to handle situations,” he pointed out.

Earlier, Horizon Coordinator, Masooma Bibi, reviewed the organization’s last year activities.

There were counseling sessions with teachers and students. Up to 60 students affected by flood and earthquake in Chitral district were rehabilitated.

Free counseling service was offered. Community networking was done for free to facilitate patients from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Afghanistan in seeing other doctors.

Free medical camp was arranged in Haripur, staff participated in television and radio programs, seminars and conferences to talk on the subject.

Forensic psychiatry specialists will train young psychologists in law and mental health to equip them with legal jargon when they appear in courts. Horizon legal adviser, Ibrahim Khan, and Dr Ali Ahsan Mufti, a consultant psychiatrist at the Ibadat Hospital and its executive director, will coordinate the activity.