Mental Health in Pakistan

Mental health is the least important topic to be discussed in Pakistan as people assume the person who is struggling in life mentally is just insane and cannot be treated. It’s an ultimate failure of our society that does not accept this problem as an illness.

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First, we need to understand what mental illness is and why it is important. Each year 13% of children 46% teenagers and 19% of the adult population are affected with mental illnesses and only half of those receive treatment. We need to educate our society that mental illness is a physical illness of the brain that makes us frustrated, changes our behavior, energy, or emotion that makes it difficult to cope with the ordinary demands of life but it is just an illness and it is treatable through medication and therapy sessions, people shouldn’t make it a taboo.

The most common mental health conditions are anxiety disorders, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), specific phobias, and depression.

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Mental health in Pakistan is a debatable topic that should not be neglected but unfortunately, it is something that is difficult to understand because of the literacy rate according to the 2017 literacy rate report it is just 59.13% of the total population. This means Pakistan as an underdeveloped Nation has to increase its literacy rate first to let people understand the problems of mental illness. We have only one psychiatrist for every 10,000 people with any mental illness, only four major psychiatric hospitals for a population of 204 million, and this is a core reason behind the increase in the number of mentally disturbed patients. Due to lack of knowledge, the people of Pakistan consider mental illness to be caused by supernatural forces such as spirit possession or testing by God, then they go to traditional faith healers and religious healers.

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Major mental disorders in Pakistan are depression, schizophrenia, and epilepsy. All these mental issues are increasing because of economical problems, poverty, violence, growing insecurity, unemployment, stressful working conditions, and restricted urbanization. About 39% of people live below the poverty line, which is a worrying situation. Given the poverty low health budget, high cost of medicine there is a huge economic burden on the patient.

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Women are more likely to get suffer from mental illness as they often face domestic violence, restriction on equal rights especially in rural areas, this may also include other factors like widowed status in differences within laws, financial strain, and at times status of being a housewife rather than employed.

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The possible solution to reduce mental health issues in Pakistan is to open mental Healthcare departments in general hospitals. So that people can approach easily. On the other hand, Mental Health Promotion requires a multi-sectoral approach the focus should be on promoting mental health throughout the lifespan to ensure a healthy start in life to prevent mental disorders.

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This Opinion has been submitted by Mian Abdul Mateen. He can be reached on his Twitter account: @MateenSpeaks

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