The session titled ‘Is Life Worth Living-Finding hope in Pakistan’, held on Saturday as part of the first Adab Pakistan Festival going on at the Governor House, asked all the right questions regarding the state of treatment of mental health issues in the country.
Moderated by Zarrar Khuhro, the panel had practitioners Dr Murad Moosa and Dr Ayesha Mian.
Dr Moosa said that there were just 400 to 450 experts in the country, which was a sorry state of affairs because there were far too many people suffering from depression.
Asking about picking the signs to know if a person is suicidal, he said that when the person plunges into hopelessness and feels like a burden to others and eventually feels a profound isolation. However, he felt that there was a greater chance to save a person by assuring communication.
Dr Ayesha felt that while there was a dearth of mental health practitioners, there were just four professionals who were working with adolescents and young adults.
"One major reason behind this is the expectations of parents from their children. When a child returns home from school, they're often asked about their grades and are constantly compared with their own friends, which leads to a lot of pressure on them since the beginning," she said.
She also stressed that parents needed to focus on raising wholesome children so that they did not face mental health issues.
One parent who lost his son to suicide said that children needed to feel a sense of safety which could only be assured if parents were present for them and that children did not feel qualms about sharing their lives.
Dr Muraad also said that many young men went through a terrible phase upon leaving their homes to find better oppurtunities in Karachi. "They are often underemployed or unemployed and with no support system they often plunge into depression."
It was also said that people needed to understand that spirituality may not work for everyone. "With just one per cent of the budget spent on health, there is no budget for mental health and the conditions for practitioners are such that there is a dearth of professionals," said Dr Muraad.
Education as ideology
Another session titled, "Education as Ideology", moderated by academician Ali Raza, delved into the themes of the content of textbooks as well policies in educational institutions.
The panel comprised academicians and researchers Tania Saeed, Dilshad Ashraf, Ali Usman Qasmi and Anushay Malik.
Qasmi discussed his research about how there was a shift towards Aurangzeb, who was known to be a conservative Mughal ruler, as opposed to Akbar who attempted to find a mid way between the Hindus and the Muslims in the subcontinent.
He also said that it could be observed that the imagination of Pakistan geographically now leaned towards the Middle East instead of the Indus Valley or Gandhara.
Tania shared that her experience with Urdu textbooks especially in Punjab was an interesting one because Urdu was the centre point for Islamiat as well as Pakistan Studies. "In Grade One, children learn about serving the country as they believe they need to join the forces. There is a prescriptive idea of patriotism which focuses on the duty of the citizen towards the state and never the other way round. The textbooks promote a heteronormative idea of a family as well," she said.
Anushay, who has mainly worked with the Christian communities in Lahore, especially Youhanabad, said that despite having variations of ideologies, the one picked by the state was exclusionary.
Dilshad said that her involvement in the education sector also made her push for many measures with gender equity being the foremost.
Tania said that with the Eighth Amendment, while some provinces like Punjab were able to work on their textbooks, provinces like Balochistan suffered immensely.
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