The World Health Organisation estimates that almost 20,000 people die by suicide in Pakistan every year and the number is on the rise.
Health experts assess that every 5th person in the country suffers from a mental health problem, and due to a social stigma surrounding mental health, more than 75% of them do not receive proper treatment. Moreover, there is only one psychiatrist per 400,000 people and most of them are in urban areas.
Although mental health is a major crisis like floods or pandemics, it's invisible and not a national priority, said mental health experts at a panel discussion hosted by the Aga Khan University's Brain and Mind Institute. The event was organised to break the silence and speak about suicide and suicidal acts in Pakistan. Earlier, an award-winning short film, 'Darya Kay Iss Paar', was screened which depicts the cultural and psychological factors that contribute to mental ill health and suicidal acts.
The film follows the story of a young girl who feels alone, unheard and uncared for. The pressures that began when she was a student compound after she marries. No one in her life acknowledges her feelings or thoughts. Rigid social values and norms add fuel to the fire.
"It gets more difficult for women because they are confined to the bottom of the societal structure," said Nighat Akbar Shah, producer of the film, during the panel discussion.
"The film is a narrative of hope amid a valley fraught with grief and despair," said Dr Zul Merali, the Founding Director of the Brain and Mind Institute.
"Nighat's film is an example of a new willingness to break the silence and take action to prevent suicide in Pakistan," said AKU President Dr Sulaiman Shahabuddin in his video message.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2022.
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