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October 10, 2019

‘Suicide Prevention’ theme of Mental Health Day today


October 10, 2019

LAHORE:The World Mental Health Day is being observed all over the world including Pakistan on Thursday (today) with this year’s theme of “Suicide Prevention”.

International Federation for Mental Health and the United Nations have designated October 10, as mental health day in order to highlight importance of mental health. Seminars and conferences are held in countries all over the world and those involved write articles in newspapers, magazines and periodicals.

As far as this year’s theme is concerned, the highest rate of suicide is found in youths in developing countries like Pakistan. The World Mental Health Day reminds of a couple, an extraordinary and unparalleled husband and wife who, without a shadow of doubt, could be called ‘Legends of Psychiatry’ due to their mammoth and historical contribution towards the cause of the young people’s mental health. They are none other than Prof Dr Ijaz Tareen and Prof Dr Khalida Tareen. Their focused, dedicated and extensive service in the field of mental health during the last four decades has been a beacon of light for others. After completing their medical education and a short period of service in Mayo Hospital Lahore they went abroad to pursue higher studies in mental health. They had excellent job offers to work and live in the UK for the rest of their lives following completion of their studies, but the passion to serve the downtrodden and poor young people and their families brought them back to Pakistan.

This decision was not easy to make considering the facilities and comfort being offered by an advanced country like the UK, and the odds and difficulties they could expect to face back home in Pakistan. Both the husband and wife had the right resilience and strong will to face all adversities that came their way. Their plan to return to Pakistan and serve the ailing humanity was part of a greater scheme of things of the Almighty. During their lengthy and arduous career of service to the mentally ill young people and their families, they continued to support each other with their best abilities, complementing each other in the pursuit of their supreme goal of serving the marginalised sections of our society.

Prof Khalida Tareen, who has the honour of being the first child psychiatrist in the country, established the Department of Child Mental Health. Prof Ijaz Tareen, with strong will and untiring efforts visualised, planned, organised and established state-of-the-art multi-purpose psychiatric department on modern lines keeping in view the long term future needs. When the Pakistan government imposed restrictions on the sale and use of opium, it was Dr Tareen’s pioneer and bold initiative in organising and establishing the department catering to the treatment of addicts which was the first and largest in Pakistan. It was visited and highly praised by no less a person than late Princess Diana when she came to Pakistan.

Shortly after their return with a few like-minded friends they established a charity for the emotionally and mentally handicapped children for their education, training and rehabilitation. In 1981, a school named “Special Education and Training Centre” was established under their dynamic leadership in a rented building but was later shifted to Johar Town, Lahore. With the passage of time the functioning system for this school was expanded. Children and women belonging to lower socio-economic group and homeless families were also provided with education.

Prof Khalida Tareen had the honour of being on the Advisory Panel of WHO on mental health. Pakistan government awarded her Sitara-i-Imtiaz in recognition of her services in the area of social and academic field. She is also Professor Emeritus, Child Psychiatry at King Edward Medical University.

Prof Ijaz Tareen as Head of the Academic Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, King Edward Medical College in addition to his research and academic activities directed his efforts towards removing the stigma of mental illness. It is hard to describe his personality as a teacher, a physician, a dedicated worker and his selfless services for mentally ill.

Dr Maqsood Ahmad, Senior Psychiatrist & Medical Director, Signet Health Care, UK, informed that he had an opportunity to meet and exchange views with numerous professors and research scholars around the globe. “I can, therefore, say with conviction that no one was able to impress me the way Professor Ijaz Tareen had,” he said. Throughout his psychiatric career, he said, he had not only provided guidance to his students but also with countless opportunities of immense learning regarding any aspect of a mental health issue. He said that he is the only psychiatrist who is not only known in our country but also all around the world is well known for his academic abilities.

Dr Maqsood Ahmad recalled that former Dean and President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Prof Andrew Sims sent an email to Prof Ijaz Tareen’s daughter Dr Eaisha Tareen, “I wondered if you had a picture/photograph which you could send me of your father. I have looked him up on the internet and he is such a modest fellow that, although there are masses of pictures of colleagues, students, etc. there are none of him. I have to give a lecture in Leeds in a few weeks and I thought I would talk about some of the people who have influenced psychiatry around the world – hence my request”.

Prof Ijaz Tareen’s role in providing new modality in the field of psychiatry is revolutionary and has totally changed the face of psychiatry in Pakistan resulting in restoring the self-respect of patients and their families and in removing the stigma of mental illness from society. This historical role puts him in the league of renowned personalities from 18th century such as William Tuke of UK, Philippe Pinal of France and Benjamin Rush of USA. An arduous and daunting task of giving new face to the psychiatry and mental illness started during 1970’s from Bahawalpur where he laid the foundation of Department of Psychiatry. This achievement was repeated in Multan and finally he got assigned to Lahore where he went into full gear, achieving the unachievable in spite of hurdles, resistance and restraints.

A hall in the Department of Psychiatry, Mayo Hospital, Lahore, was named after Prof Ijaz Tareen for the sole purpose of education. It is known as “Tareen Hall” now. The desire for serving the poor and downtrodden section of the community had always been part of his personality from the very beginning and is evident from the very fact that, even as President of the College Union, he established a “Lending Library” for the poor and needy students. Once in college magazine KEMCOL, there was an article detailing his activities captioned “service before self” highlighting his efforts.

After retiring from government service, his services and devotion in the form of free clinic for the mentally ill have continued unabated. Their untiring efforts to improve the plight of the mentally ill and their services to the poor and needy will be a guiding star for the generations of doctors and their name will serve as a landmark in the history of our country.

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