LAHORE: Lack of tolerance and patience towards mentally ill people is one of the biggest hurdles to developing a society with good mental health, said psychiatrist at a seminar here on Saturday.
Professor Malik H Mubasher, a noted psychiatrist and vice chancellor of the University of Health Sciences, told the audience at the seminar that Pakistanis did not pay enough attention to helping people with mental health problems or to promoting mental wellbeing.
The best thing the Health Department could do on World Mental Health Day (Oct 10), he joked, was to vaccinate the population against intolerance, bias and prejudice against the mentally ill.
“Let us recognise that mental illness affects us all, whether personally or through a family member, friend or colleague,” said Prof Mubasher, who is also the World Health Organisation’s ambassador on psychiatry.
One in four people worldwide suffer from mental illness at some time in their life. An estimated 450 million people suffer from a mental or behavioural disorder, which amounts to 42 per cent of the total burden of disease worldwide, he said.
Prof Mubasher said mental illness was caused by a shortage of neurotransmitters, a variety of hormones that affects the brain.
Speaking later to The Express Tribune, Prof Mubasher said society in general was suffering from deteriorating mental health because the joint family system was crumbling, rural to urban migration, and use of recreational drugs by the young.
These factors had resulted in a loss of spiritual and moral values and sense of identity.
He said that mental illness was curable. One important step was to remove the stigma around mental illness, he said.
He warned of the dangers of overeating for the mentally ill. He advised parents not to lie to or in front of their children.
Prof IAK Tareen, former professor of psychiatry at King Edward Medical College, said that it was time for people to raise their voice against injustice and recognise those who damaged the country.
Prof Najma Najam, Prof Ijaz Haider, Dr Aftab Iqbal Shaikh, Dr Nasir Saeed, Dr Altaf Qadir and Dr Mujtaba also spoke.
All the speakers paid rich tribute to renowned psychiatrists Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan and Prof Haroon Rashid, who died last week.
The aim of celebrating World Mental Health Day is to raise public awareness about mental health issues through discussion of mental disorders and investment in prevention and treatment services.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2010.
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