In Pakistan, 30 to 66 per cent of the population is suffering from some sort of psychiatric, psychological or psychosomatic disease and the number is increasing quite fast, said Pakistan Association for Mental Health President Dr Haroon Ahmed.
“Around 450 million individuals in the world are estimated to be suffering from a mental illness whereas 25 per cent of the world’s population suffers from a mental disorder at some stage of their lives.”
While speaking at the Karachi Press Club to raise awareness on World Mental Health Day, Dr Ahmed said that mental illnesses were not given much attention in the country. He added that four hospitals and 3,000 beds were set aside for this branch of medicine. “There are only 419 psychiatrists in the country and they are restricted to the big cities,” he said. “More than 75 per cent of the population lives in rural areas and small towns – how will they get the help they need?”
The doctor added that in the last eight to 10 years, the suicide rate of the country had increased quite drastically. Dr Ahmed said that there were very few trained psychiatric nurses and community mental workers in the country and the government was not doing anything to change it. He blamed the government’s lack of interest as the main cause of more than 50 per cent of suicides in the country.
Aga Khan University Hospital Consultant Dr Badar Sabir Ali said that after heart disease, depression would take the most lives in the world. She added that poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and gender discrimination were factors that contributed to depression and other mental illnesses to a large extent in the country. Dr Ahmed said that another factor was stress. He spoke about the increasing tension and unease spreading through the city because of target killings and the extortion mafia. He added that the people were easily terrorised by robberies and muggings on the road and did not want to come out of their houses.
The PAMH general secretary Dr M Naim Siddiqi said that their organisation had treated 18,000 patients from 2003 to 2011 and had examined more than 0.1 million people.
He added that more than 90 per cent of the patients came for regular check-ups and 72 per cent of the patients received free treatment.
Dr Siddiqi went on to explain that this was possible because of donations. He added that they had asked the government’s zakat department to help out but they hadn’t done so. The PAMH has organised a seminar titled The Great Push: Investment in Mental Health on World Mental Health Day on Sunday (today) at the Pakistan Mental Association house.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2011.