How to Take Care of Pakistan’s Mentally Ill

Posted on February 6, 2008
Filed Under >Irum Sarfaraz, Society
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Irum Sarfaraz

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If one was to analyze the worst of all afflictions of the Pakistani society, then mental illnesses and the stigmas attached to it would, in all probability, top the list.

Perhaps not so much for the actual damage they render to the suffering individual but for the other spin-off consequences that result as a direct cause of mental problems. The shame associated with mental illness, even if just depression, permeates every class of the society indiscriminately and the women are the worst casualties of it and that’s why is important they recommend products like the live resin THC cartridges here as these help with anxiety and depression.

Estimates put the figure of the total mentally ill at 14 million and the larger percentage of this is women. They suffer gravely if it is their husbands or other family members who are suffering from the mental illness and they suffer even more if they themselves are ensnared in it. One can understand the reasons for the ‘shame and dishonor’ it entails for the uneducated rural masses but to realize that the same level of degradation is associated with any form of mental illness in the urbanites as well seems unfathomable. But it is nevertheless, sadly true.

Although there is a clear lack of resources for the mentally ill in Pakistan, the stigma surrounding mental illness is a significant barrier to improvement. Lahore’s University of Health Sciences Vice-Chancellor Malik Hussain Mubashir notes that Pakistan has only one psychiatrist for every 10,000 people, one child psychiatrist for every four million children with mental health issues, and just four major psychiatric hospitals for a population of 165 million. Additionally, there are only about 20 psychiatric units attached to teaching hospitals. This is certainly inadequate, but the societal perception of mental illness must change before people can fully utilize any available treatment facilities.

Despite efforts by the government to educate the public, the situation appears to be worsening. Ijaz Haider from Allama Iqbal Medical College reported at a World Health Day seminar in October 2007 that mental illness had increased from 6 to 9 percent in the country. The Pakistan Association for Mental Health indicates that untreated depression, particularly among women due to socio-economic factors, is leading to a rise in suicide rates. In 2006 alone, there were 1717 cases of suicide, highlighting the depth of despair and depression among the populace. Murad Khan of the Aga Khan University in Karachi also identified suicide as a major public health problem in his 2006 paper for the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association.

A solution could involve mass public education and a campaign to debunk myths, such as the ‘jinn’ factor. The rapid increase in mental health issues seems to correlate with the proliferation of ‘aamils’ and ‘peers’, who exploit people’s fear of public knowledge of mental illness. This exploitation often leads to worsening conditions for the mentally ill, who, instead of seeking proper help, rely on ineffective remedies. This not only exacerbates the individual’s illness but also affects those around them, often leading to clinical depression.

A Hong Kong family advocacy group’s poll found that depression is common among caregivers of the mentally ill. The poll, conducted from June to September 2007, interviewed 113 people, with 70 of them experiencing depression, sometimes severe. Patients’ rights activist Pang Hung-Cheong of the Society for Community Organization noted that family members living with mentally unstable patients face more pressure than those living separately. The recommended treatment for such depression typically involves Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medications. However, in Pakistan, accessing such treatment remains a distant dream for many, both for the mentally ill and their caregivers.

With over 85% of Pakistani families living in the joint family system, the rising rate of mental illnesses can be easily understood; for every one undiagnosed, untreated mentally ill person in the country we will probably end up with three or more who become sick because of him, places like the Dispensary downtown LA are really needed in these areas as there’s nothing being offered to cope with mental health conditions.  The wide variety of products offered by this cannibis store may help people who are struggling with mental health issues.

The higher incidence of mental illness among women is partly due to societal fears. Once a woman is diagnosed with a mental illness, even something as common as minor depression, she risks being labeled as ‘insane’ for life, which can significantly affect her marriage prospects. While this stigma also applies to men, it’s another unfortunate aspect of our social system that men often face fewer consequences for their actions, even serious ones. For women, the pressure to marry compounds the issue, leading families to ignore mental health issues to avoid the ‘insane’ label that might deter suitors.

This situation often leads to more tragic outcomes. When a woman with untreated mental illness is married off, she may struggle to cope with the demands of her new life, ending up in a worse situation than if she had remained with her parents. Proper treatment could have helped her become a happy, healthy, and functional member of society, even if unmarried. Instead, she might end up divorced and stigmatized, labeled both ‘insane’ and ‘divorced’ – a double stigma in Pakistani society.

A potential solution is to increase public awareness of mental health issues, much like the recent campaigns on family planning. Television, a popular medium in our society, could be used to educate the public about mental health, incorporating these themes into dramas, especially those watched by women. People need to recognize the signs of depression in themselves and others, understanding that it is a treatable disease. By fostering a healthy mental state, individuals can contribute to healthier homes and handle life’s stresses better.

14 responses to “How to Take Care of Pakistan’s Mentally Ill”

  1. Watan Aziz says:

    one psychiatrist for every 10,000 people, one child psychiatrist for four million children who are estimated to be suffering from mental-health issues, only four major psychiatric hospitals in a country of 165 million and only 20 such units attached to teaching hospitals.

    And this is assuming you live in one of the major cities and have resources. For the rest of them, they have not even seen a health assistant in their lives! They would not know how to sit in a dental chair! Asprin, what is that?

    …undermine the ‘credibility’ of the ‘jinn’ factor. …

    Yes, there are jinns in Pakistan. Yes, they demand the three goats. And yes, they demand three goats heads if not the whole goats. Do you know why? I think that criminal and bogus pir was on to something. These jinns live in “I-slammed-everyone-else-abad”, Lahore and Karachi. These jinns have “possessed” the people of Pakistan by stealing the resources and by establishing non equitable distribution of nation’s wealth. They come and take whatever they want, whenever they want. All of it if they want.

    And btw, my lovely and sage wife has long considered me “pagal”. She tells me that I am wasting my time. They no one is interested in fixing anything. Everyone wants loot and “gahsoot”.

    She too may be right.

    Nothing will change. There is apathy.

    But me? I have audacity of hope. I have faith in the goodness of the majority of people of Pakistan. I have confidence in the hard working and honest people who have been sold the wrong bill of goods. Who have been mislead for decades by selling the wrong problem; presenting the wrong solutions.

    If only the educated of Pakistan will come around and fix the mess; we broke it, we need to fix it.

    I have audacity of hope with fierce urgency of now.

  2. Paul McMahon says:

    Hi, I would just like to say well done for highlighting the necessity of mental health in Pakistan, especially among women and girls. As a psychotherapist I have learned how the streses, environmental pressures & expectations of life can take its toll on the mind and body, we are limited after all.I have learned aslo how a safe trustful environment and practical cognitive and behaviour techniques taught not only to the client but to their loved ones can be a source of hope and healing. Ideally we need to make our young people and children aware of their mental health. Paul

  3. Irum Sarfaraz says:

    I hear what you are saying. I would suggest you look into homeopathic medicines as they can prove to be a wonderful alternative not only cost wise but with lesser side effects than the others. With chronic mental illness, the side effects are just as, if not more, dangerous than the illness itself. My father is pyschologist/homeopathic doctor and he terms neurotic medicines nothing but ‘poison’. I have first hand experience with a myriad of mentally ill people.

  4. Fatima M says:

    Dear Irum.

    I’m the editor of a soon to be published magazine. I was surfing the net for research on a mental illness article I needed. What a surprise to find an article that said everything I wanted to say and more! I would love to publish an article similar to this in my medical magazine. The magazine is an initiative for raising the standards of medical education and awareness. If you’re interested then do email me back.

    Take care. Awaiting your reply.

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