Tuesday October 26, 2021

Mental wellbeing

October 14, 2021

While according to the WHO 24 million Pakistanis are in need of help for mental health issues, there are only 0.19 psychiatrists per 100,000 people in the country to treat these problems. Mental health makes up four percent of the total disease burden in Pakistan, and is said to be higher among women than men. The need for mental health counselling has also increased after the Covid-19 pandemic, rising up in Pakistan from 15 percent in need of such assistance to 25 percent. There are many other problems which also lead to poor mental health among people and a need to treat it, whether through therapy or medication. Mental health is a poorly recognised issue in the country and there is still a stigma which hangs around people seeking help for mental wellbeing. The lack of available psychiatric care means many cannot gain access to help, even if they should choose to try and obtain it.

Awareness about mental health issues has increased around the world following the Covid-19 pandemic and the issues it has caused. Pakistan must consider why it is failing so badly to provide for people who require support and assistance to deal with disorders of many kinds including depression and anxiety, often expanded by the severe economic pressures they face. Pakistan needs to train many more psychologists, therapists and psychiatrists to deal with these problems.

While a number of organisations have encouragingly set up telephone lines enabling people with mental health issues to consult them and talk about their problems, this is not enough. Specialised help is required in many cases and more psychiatric practices needed in all parts of the country. Outside the major cities, it is almost impossible to acquire any help at all given the lack of specialists practising in these areas. Pakistan needs to alter its policies to encourage more people to gain training in offering counselling, clinical psychological help and psychiatry. This has become a pressing need in the country. Immediate steps are then needed to ensure that the 80 percent of Pakistanis who are unable to acquire access to psychiatric facilities are assisted in some manner and can gain the support and help they need, often over a prolonged period of time, to deal with mental illness and help them cope better with the many stresses they face in life and improve their ability to live life as normally as is possible, given their specific condition.