On September 1, another person allegedly committed suicide. A young and upcoming model, Anam Tanoli, was found dead in her home in Lahore’s Defence area. The 26-year-old was said to be suffering from depression.
While investigations are underway to determine if any foul play was involved in Anam’s case, the increasing number of suicide cases in the country is alarming. On the same day, a 55-year-old man who was battling several illnesses for many years committed suicide in Karachi. Pages of this newspaper have also reported cases of suicide frequently. But despite the soaring numbers, mental illnesses are still considered a taboo. Many people either completely disregard its existence, while many others choose to sweep it under the rug out of fear of being ostracised from communities.
On the other hand, the lack of professionals available makes it even harder for people to reach out. As of 2014, only 400 psychiatrists and five psychiatric hospitals existed within the entire country, according to the WHO. This means the psychiatrist-to-person ratio was an alarming one to half a million people. Things have not changed much since as tackling mental health issues have not been in the priority list of policymakers.
In the wake of this, a call from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s presidential nominee, Arif Alvi, asking for a readily available 24/7 psychiatric help after Anam’s case is a silver lining. Such a helpline is even more important at a time when Pakistan’s young generation is vulnerable to falling prey to games such as the Blue Whale and Momo challenge — both pushing players to complete self-harming tasks. The recent ban placed on these games by Federal Information Technology Minister Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui is a short-term solution. More robust measures are required to help those who are pushed to the brink of existence.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2018.