Firearms, explosions, destitution, social injustice, natural calamities, illness, famine, and now, once again, war, are all words that signify the current events of life in Pakistan. No matter how large or small our bubbles are and how aloof we try to remain to the dark realities of today, these are circumstances that many residents of Pakistan face. Admittedly, there is much good that comes out of such difficult conditions, such as the resilience skills people learn when they encounter these problems. However, on this World Mental Health Day 2016, let us acknowledge that these battles cannot be won alone. There is a wide gap between experiencing such problems and actually overcoming them with one’s mental and emotional well-being intact. This is where the role of mental health providers comes in but it can only make an impact when people believe in the existence and ubiquitous effects of mental illnesses.
Some estimates place the percentage of mental health victims anywhere between eight and 16 per cent of the country’s total population but there are several constraints in providing mental healthcare to these people. We hardly hear about Pakistan’s mental health policy because there is no implementation. The most recent numbers indicate that of the overall 2.4 per cent of the health budget, only a mere two per cent is allocated to mental healthcare. Finally, stigmatisation of mental health treatment has to stop as it is not limited to mental hospitals as was believed in the past. It serves societies well to have state-run mental health facilities but modern care is not limited to them. Further legislation is also needed to improve the quality of mental healthcare through strict laws about the qualifications necessary to be a care provider. For a country where the possibility of mental illness incidents is high given the unstable conditions we exist in and the fact that culturally, we are often not in control of our own consequential life decisions, the limited awareness about mental health needs to be expanded to a great degree.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2016.
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