Enigma of Mental Health in Pakistan

By Maira Afridi

Mental health is as necessary for a happy, satisfied and productive life as physical health. Indubitably, negligence in maintaining both these ends of rope for a healthy life results in deterioration of individual’s health, daily chores in general while that of socio-economic fabric of society in particular. Contrariwise, mental illness is a hazardous sign that mars chances of a prosperous life as lack of significant peace of mind ultimately gives room to gigantic chaos and puts undue stress on the already appalling condition of a person.

It should invite no surprise that Pakistan, as a country, is caged in uncountable crises. Without any tint of exaggeration, with constant stress, terrorist attacks, poverty, illness, poor health standards, unemployment, class disparities, sectarianism, injustice and scores of other socio-political and economic problems, even to think of living in peaceful and placid environment is to live in a fool’s paradise. Sadly, over 50 million people suffer from common mental disorders overtly or covertly in this land of pure. With only 400 trained psychologists working in the country, the achievement of high patient-to-doctor ratio is a hard nut to crack, though.

Suicide rates have upsurged in Pakistan with upto 8,500 deaths recorded last year (2019). Without any iota of doubt, this recorded rate is an underestimated figure owing to some sanctions in Pakistan. Stress and anxiety among the people are but the major reasons of such turmoil and dejectedness that have wreaked havoc in all sections of society as a whole and pushed it towards the morass of pandemonium with hardly any way to reverse. Adults, aged between 17 to 24, are the major victims of stress and depression. With these tumors, they have become more rigid in their thinking and have failed to cope with the burden of responsibilities which they have shouldered or have been caused to shouldered.

A reliable data suggests that a third of Pakistan’s population has anxiety and depression. Owing to these conclusive evidences, it is high time for provincial governments to take some steps in this regard. True, macro-level changes are hard to achieve in the direction, but at least, they should provide mental health professionals with certain funds and give them incentives to deliver their services without any procrastination. Moreover, some changes in lifestyle can also be of immense help. Parents and teachers can play crucial role to support the cause. They can prove themselves major players in training their children and students respectively to overcome the menace of mental illness. 

It is without any doubt that nothing can be achieved overnight but a step to curb this ever swelling threat can prove pivotal in reduction of such cases in future. Moreover, stigma and shame, that mental treatment entails in our society, must be uprooted for positive results. This is the need of the hour. Conspicuous silence and mourning over this crisis will lead to permanent silence of many beautiful and invaluable souls and assets of the country. 

Maira Afridi is Quetta based freelancer and a graduate of University of Balochistan Department of Eastern Medicine

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