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October 19, 2015

‘Every year, almost 15,000 Pakistanis end their own lives’


October 19, 2015

About 13,000 to 15,000 people in Pakistan end their lives themselves every year, while the number of attempts remains even higher, as almost 200,000 people try to end their lives per annum in the country.
The startling disclosure was made by Dr Murad Moosa Khan, professor of psychiatry at the Aga Khan University Hospital in his keynote address at an event organised by the Mental Health Forum to mark ‘World Mental Health Day’ this past week.
The Mental Health Forum, a cluster of 21 prestigious non-governmental organisations (NGOs), was launched last year to create awareness on mental illness and to work on legislation for the Mental Health Act. The member NGOs work in various areas related to mental illness, empowerment, research and legislation.
The theme of the World Federation of Mental Health this year was “Dignity in Mental Health” and the program was designed to highlight the stigma held against mental illness; the societal aspects of mental illness; how it was perceived and how should stigma be addressed.
Shahnaz Vazir Ali was the chief guest of the event. Dr Moosa said he conducted original research on suicide in Pakistan and spoke on the value of ethics in biological sciences.
“Can there be dignity in mental health?” Dr Moosa asked but answered in the negative himself and told the audience that the mental health of 35 to 40 percent of Pakistanis was compromised.
He went on to say that 25 million children in Pakistan were out of schools, adding that 60 percent of the population was condemned to live in poverty.
Dr Moosa further said there could be no dignity in mental health unless all citizens were treated with dignity.
“Human dignity is the most important of human rights,” he observed, but lamented that, barring Aga Khan University Hospital and Dow University of Health Sciences, no medical university conducted examinations for the field of psychiatry.
“The biggest problem in Pakistan is

corruption,” he said, adding that even doctors are bribed by multinational companies who send them abroad in return for them prescribing the companies’ medicines.
“Mental health should not been seen in isolation,” he said, adding that it needs to be integrated into the primary health category.
“The moral values of a society can be measured by how it treats vulnerable individuals,” he observed.
Communication officer at Karwan-e-Hayat, Sumera Naqvi, in her introductory remarks said, perhaps, it was fear and stigma due to which a person tries to hide mental illness.
Dr Saadia Quraishy, CEO Aman Health, said Mental Health Day was observed on October 10 but in many countries it was celebrated throughout the week. She said globally as many as 450 million people suffer from mental illness, adding that depression would become the second most prevalent disease globally by the year 2030.
She said depression not only impacts Pakistani society but also our economy as productive workers were lost. She called for better trained GPs and said that as the state was shirking its responsibilities, NGOs were trying to fill the void.
Dr Saadia said it was essentially due to the efforts of Pakistan Association of Mental Health President Prof S Haroon Ahmed that mental health legislation had been passed in the province, adding that though it was a major achievement, it needed to be adopted by other provinces too.

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