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October 19, 2020

World Mental Health Day seminar: Stigma factor discourages people from seeking psychologists help

Peshawar

October 19, 2020

PESHAWAR: The health experts said despite awareness, stigma was still associated with mental health issues which discouraged affected people from seeking help from clinical psychologists or psychiatrists.

They termed depression as a major mental disorder and the leading cause of disability worldwide, the health experts said more women were suffering from this mood disorder compared to men. They were speaking at a seminar organised by Iftikhar Psychiatric Hospital in connection with the World Mental Health Day which is marked on October 10. Leading psychiatrists, including Dr Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Prof Dr Khalid Mufti, Prof Dr Sayyed Mohammad Sultan, Prof Dr Idrees and Prof Imran Khan spoke about various aspects of the mental health issues. The speakers said that despite awareness in the society, stigmas were still associated with mental health issues and this made the people suffering from mental health issues avoid seeking help from psychiatrists or clinical psychologists.

Psychiatrist, Dr Wajid Ali Akhunzada recalled how a proposal of a doctor working with a leading psychiatrist of his time was rejected years ago apparently due to lack of awareness of mental health issues and the people associated with this specialty. “When he sent a proposal to a family, parents of the girl refused and said they would not give their daughter to a doctor treating patients of mental health whom they called ‘lewanee’ or insane,” recalled Dr Wajid Ali. However, another psychiatrist Prof Bashir disagreed with Prof Wajid Ali, saying gone were the days when mental health issues were considered a stigma.

“There are prominent people like Dr Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Prof Dr Khalid Mufti and Prof Sayyed Sultan in this field now. And the psychiatrists and clinical psychologists are providing excellent services to people suffering from mental health issues,” he said. Dr Noor Faraz spoke about drug addicts and their mental health problems, saying 7.6 million people were involved in drug addiction in Pakistan. He added that about 40,000 more people were adding to this figure every year. He said 78 percent of the drug addicts were men and the remaining were women in the country. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said, was the most vulnerable place in terms of the growing number of drug addicts, saying that four million people were involved in drug addiction in the province.

Dr Noor Faraz said that only 11 percent of the drug users sought consultation services of psychiatrists. He said that drug use was on the rise in the education institutions where drugs were being used as ‘party drugs’ by the students and it was causing multiple mental health complications to them. Dr Imran Khan of Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) said psychiatrists and clinical psychologists played an important role during the Covid-19 pandemic when people lost their jobs and started suffering from mental health issues. He mentioned how Dr Akbar Khan used to visit the remote mountainous Chitral district once in a month and provided free consultation to the patients there.

Prof Dr Khalid Mufti, the head of a non-governmental organisaiton, Horizon, called for introducing mental health services at the school level, training social workers in the sector and raising awareness about the climatic change that impacts the mental health of the people. Dr Maqsood Ali, chief executive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Healthcare Commission (KPHCC), spoke about behaviour of the doctors with patients and teachers with their students, saying the doctors and teachers needed more consultation services for their mental health issues. “I have noticed that people associated with psychiatry and clinical psychology are very polite and happy in life. We need to organise such informative sessions at divisional level to reach our 35 million people in the province,” said Dr Maqsood Ali.

The HCC chief was very critical of the doctors and schoolteachers and their behaviour with their patients and students. “I have seen some teachers ruthlessly punishing students in schools. They are responsible for the mental health issues and behaviour related issues of people,” he observed. He said it was unfortunate that corporal punishment was seen as solution to mental issues. About doctors, he said, they needed more consultation services of the psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, saying the attitude of some of the doctors with their patients was insulting.