About 20% of Pakistanis suffer from various mental health problems, but the government has devised no strategy to tackle them.
There is also a need to regulate treatment centres for addicts as most are being run by nonprofessional staffers that just make a bad situation worse.
These views were shared by Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) Psychiatry Department head Professor Dr Rizwan Taj on Saturday at a workshop, “Mind and Health”, here at a hotel.
The workshop was organised by the Pims Psychiatry Department in collaboration with the King’s College Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK, and aimed to create awareness about mental health issues.
Meanwhile, drug abuse problems are widely prevalent and there is a need to check all long-distance drivers for cannabis/hashish abuse as it impairs motor skills and thus the ability to drive.
He criticised pharmacies that openly sell sleeping pills without asking for a doctor’s prescription.
He also noted that there is a false belief in our society that marriage is the best option to treat a person suffering from mental illness. “Due to the lack of awareness about common mental disorders, people end up being exploited by quacks and pirs,” he said.
He added that the government is more focused on communicable diseases and is ignoring the fact that mental health impairs one’s life and productivity.
Dr Taj held the population explosion, overcrowding, unemployment, prolonged insecurity, and multiple traumatic experiences responsible for the rising incidence of mental illness.
Besides this, he also mentioned problems with the content of both news and entertainment TV channels, especially the media’s role in suicides. “The media needs to be very careful while reporting such incidents. In depth coverage about the incident gives ideas to many who are also passing through same situation,” he said.
“A positive and extensive strategy by all sections of society is required to effectively deal with common mental disorders and a need to understand them in a cultural context,” he said.
Dr Taj said that the media need to take up a massive nation healing exercise by covering positive stories extensively and providing more entertainment to give the public a break from stress.
“When people are mentally healthy, they are able to live productive daily activities, maintain fulfilling relationships with others, and have the ability to adapt to change and cope with stress,” he said.
Later, videos clips of patients suffering from various mental health issues were presented.
In one clip, a female patient suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder was shown speaking of how she washed her hands more than 100 times per day as she always feels dirty.
“This mental disease has result in many marital breakups,” he said.
Later psychologist and psychotherapist Dr Asima Khan gave a detailed presentation on various mental health issues including anxiety, depression, hysteria among others, and shared details about their symptoms and treatments methods, while noting that anxiety and depression are more common in women.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2011.