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October 13, 2019

Mental health


October 13, 2019

Pakistan marked International Mental Health Day on Thursday along with the rest of the world. At seminars held in various cities, experts pointed out that mental illnesses, particularly depression and anxiety, were on the increase in the country and were most markedly visible among young people. The reasons for this were discussed in some detail, with some psychiatrists suggesting social media had a role to play in this decline in mental health, while others suggested stress and the inability to make decisions were key factors. According to the WHO, mental health illnesses make up four percent of the total disease burden in Pakistan. While more statistics are required, it is estimated by organisations that 24 million in Pakistan suffer them.

The fact that there are only 0.19 qualified psychiatrists per every 100,000 people means that those suffering mental problems or those who suspect they may be victims of them are unlikely to be able to find a specialist to consult. Mental health problems also appear to be more common among women, but this may be because women are more likely to speak about them or seek help. The increasing suicide rate among young people, and especially young women, is also something that needs to be seriously discussed. There is a link, according to experts, between PTSD and increasing violence in the country due to both militancy and crime.

The economic deprivation of 39 percent of Pakistanis is also seen as a key factor in the poor state of mental health. The lack of resources available at home add to the pressures families face and contribute to issues with mental health, many of which go unrecognised. It is also pointed out that psychiatry is not a favoured medical specialty among those who qualify as doctors, perhaps because they see it as being somehow lower in status than other specialties such as surgery. The issue is one that needs to be discussed more widely and openly. In most social groups there is still a deep stigma surrounding mental health and therefore an unwillingness to discuss it. Parents of young people or others who interact with them such as teachers need more awareness so they can recognise the symptoms. We also need to accept that mental health is a giant problem in the country and simply cannot be ignored any longer if we are to ensure the welfare of citizens.

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