The government must devote more attention and finances to developing facilities and doctors for mental health patients, said two of the city’s most prominent psychologists on the eve of World Mental Health Day.
The theme of the day, being observed yesterday and today (October 9-10), is Depression: A Global Crisis. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression affects more than 350 million people of all ages, in all communities, across the world and is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease.
Although there are known effective treatments for depression, access to treatment is a problem in most countries and in some countries fewer than 10 per cent of those who need it receive such treatment. Some 75 percent of the affected people in low-income countries including Pakistan don’t get treatment for depression.
“Studies conducted by the WHO and the World Bank reveal that in 2020, depression will become the second biggest killer in the world after heart diseases,” said Professor Malik Hussain Mubashar, the former vice chancellor of the University of Health Sciences and senior fellow of the Higher Education Commission.
He said that depression often manifested itself in terms of physical pain. “People here aren’t sensitive to or aware about mental diseases. If someone has depression and speaks about it, many people will tell him to shut up. In such cases the patient can get physical symptoms like severe pain in the belly or in the joints,” he said.
Prof Mubashar said there was a need to train doctors too, since many did not know how to diagnose depression. He said there was a severe shortage of psychiatrists in Pakistan. “Continuous professional treatment is required to deal with this disease. You have to have psychiatrists at district headquarters hospitals in rural and urban areas to deal with this,” he said.
Professor Riaz Bhatti, former head of the Psychiatry Department at King Edward Medical University, said there was a stigma in society when it came to mental diseases and the government needed to do something to address this problem.
“Mental ailments aren’t a priority at the state level and there aren’t any facilities to deal with them. There are just two full-time serving professors of psychiatry in public medical colleges in Punjab. This shows how much importance is given to mental disease,” he added.
The Punjab Institute of Mental Health held a seminar on psychological problems on Tuesday, said Executive Director Dr Nusrat Habib Rana. Dr Asir Ajmal from Government College University presented a paper on depression while Dr Rukhsana Kousar from Punjab University delivered a lecture.
On Wednesday, the institute has arranged a walk to raise awareness of mental diseases at which Khawaja Salman Rafique, special assistant to the chief minister on health, will be chief guest.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2012.