awareness about treatment of psychiatric illnesses
By M. Waqar Bhatti
National and international psychiatrists on Friday called for training of Pakistani doctors on identification of psychiatric illnesses so that patients with signs and symptoms of various psychiatric ailments could be referred to trained psychiatrists and consultants for timely treatment.
They maintained that in most of the cases, patients with psychiatric illnesses often report to general practitioners and family physicians and remain under their treatment for years, as common people often fail to identify themselves as patients with mental illnesses. They called for creating awareness among the common people about psychiatric ailments.
Deploring that there were hardly a few hundred trained and qualified psychiatrists in Pakistan, they urged the government to incentivise the profession of psychiatry, create positions of psychiatrists at the district level and appoint them in rural areas to prevent people from committing suicide as well as endangering their and others’ lives.
They were speaking at a seminar “Mental Health and the Future of Psychiatry”, jointly organised by the Pakistan Psychiatric Society (PPS) and the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) at the Najmuddin Auditorium of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Karachi.
The seminar was addressed by Dr Afzal Javed, president-elect of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), Chairman Sindh Mental Health Authority Karim Khawaja, President of PPS Prof Dr Iqbal Afridi, Dr Raza-ur Rehman and several others, who spoke about prevalence of mental illnesses and various strategies to lower their burden in the society.
Prof Haroon Ahmed, Prof Hasan Aziz, Dr Ayesha Mian and others were also present.
During his presentation and later talking to newsmen, President World Psychiatric Association Dr Afzal Javed said stress and anxiety was on the rise in the Pakistani society, but unfortunately the number of trained and qualified psychiatrists was quite low as compared to the rest of the world, especially the developed countries.
“Around 25 to 30 per cent people in our society are facing mental health issues, but we are far behind in providing them treatment and counseling services as compared to the rest of the world. Our institutions, government, academicians and the entire society are responsible for this state of affairs,” he said, adding that there was a need to apprise the common people about psychiatric illnesses and tell them that these were like other common diseases and were not only treatable but could be prevented like other communicable and non-communicable diseases.
“Mental health is very important part of the physical health and if any person is facing any mental health problem, he or she should consult a mental health specialist and psychiatrist for help and treatment,” Prof Javed Afzal said, adding that there was also a need to train general physicians and doctors in diagnosing and detecting psychiatric illnesses and referring them to the concerned specialists and specialists.
Eminent psychiatrist and PPS President Prof Iqbal Afridi said human potential was unlimited and the capacity of humans to develop their mental and physical abilities was unparalleled, but he added that in addition to physical needs of a human being, he or she needed mental satisfaction, happiness and joy to work upto their maximum physical and mental capacity.
Chairman Sindh Mental Health Authority Senator Karim Khawaja said that Sir Cowasjee Jehangir Institute of Psychiatry would soon be upgraded into a University of Psychiatry. He added that efforts were underway to appoint psychiatrists at all the district health facilities in the province.
Prof Raza ur Rehman deplored that there were hardly 500 trained and qualified psychiatrists, including 110 in Sindh. He said that on the other hand, over 1,500 psychiatrists of Pakistani origin were working in the United States and the United Kingdom alone.