Mental health crisis | By Deedar Ali Bangwar


Mental health crisis

PAKISTAN believes that the incidence and prevalence of mental illnesses in Pakistan is massively rising in the background of increasing insecurity, poverty, violence, terrorism, economical problems, political uncertainty, unemployment, stressful working conditions, gender discrimination, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill-health, genetic factors.

Depression is much more than sadness, it differs from person to person and even with age but has some common symptoms.

Occasionally, psychological crisis can result in depression and sometimes it relies on the day-to-day life of an individual where he undergoes a depressed mood, loss of interest, feeling of guilt, etc.

More than 25% of patients sustaining depression are suffering from Psychotic depression.

Mental health is the most dilapidated field in Pakistan where 10-16% of the population, more than 14 million, suffers from mild to moderate psychiatric disease, the majority of which are women.

Pakistan has only one psychiatrist for every 10,000 persons withstanding any of the cognitive infections, while one child psychiatrist for four million children, who are rated to be suffering from mental health hazards.

Only four major psychiatric hospitals exist for the population of 180 million and it is one of the main components behind the rise in the volume of patients with mental disorders. There is also no political discipline and no formal mental health policy in Pakistan.

All this negatively impacts the integration of care provided by government health-care professionals for patients with mental disorders.

The main mental illnesses in Pakistan are depression (6%), schizophrenia (1.5%) and epilepsy (1-2%).

This year the theme for World Mental Health Day is ‘Depression’: A Global Crisis’. According to World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects more than 350 millions, in all nations and is a crucial contributor to the global pressure of disease and a high suicide rate.

Whereas there are known effective medications for depression, access to treatment is a problem in most countries.

In Pakistan, the majority of psychiatric patients go to ancestral belief healers and religious healers who understand that mental illness is affected by supernatural forces such as spirit possession or testing by God.

“All this is because of the sensitive scarcity of mental health professionals and somewhat low levels of cognition about mental disorders.

Women in Pakistan frequently deal with domestic violence besides restriction in equivalent rights, especially in rural settings.

Other risk factors being divorced or widowed status, conflict with in-laws, economic distress and the status of being a housewife rather than employed.

A survey of mental health issues of university students was performed on 1850 participants in the age range 19-26 years.

An indigenous Student Problem Checklist (SPCL). (2011), 45 items is a rating scale, designed to decide the prevalence rate of mental health problems among university students.

This scale associates with four dimensions of mental health problems as narrated by university students, such as: Sense of being dysfunctional, loss of confidence, lack of self regulation and anxiety proneness.

Pakistan is home to about 200 million people, but has one of the worst Cognitive Health Index and less than 500 psychiatrists for this population scope.

This deficiency of mental health professionals in Pakistan generates a huge medicine gap, giving up more than 90% of people with common mental diseases untreated.

There is an alarming necessity of expanding psychiatric staff in teaching hospitals where posts of specialist psychiatrists should be created.

The Mental Health Act should be enforced with letter and spirit. Public insight policies addressing mental health problems should be publisized through the media.

—The writer is freelance based in kandhkot, Sindh

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