The country is going to observe the first ever World Brain Day on Tuesday (today) to create awareness and promote advocacy of brain health.
The World Federation of Neurology (WFN) has launched the event and dedicated it to highlighting the importance of brain health and prevention of brain diseases, a largely underestimated health problem.
Health experts feel that in developing countries like Pakistan, the significance of brain health has not been highlighted and there is no national policy for the prevention and control of neurological disorders.
They are of the view that factors behind these mental disorders are deteriorating law and order situation, insecurity, inflation, lack of justice and other necessities of life like electricity, water, gas and unemployment.
Talking to The Express Tribune, an official of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination said the number of neurological disorders in the country is on the rise due to various factors.
“How can a country progress when its citizens have weak or poor mental health,” he said, requesting anonymity.
The official said in 2001, the Pakistan Mental Health Ordinance was formulated and no one knows of its current status.
“There is an urgent need to implement a national mental health policy to prevent and control brain disorders which is increasing at an alarming rate and can create havoc in the near future” said the official.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that every year 350,000 new cases of strokes are being reported while the prevalence rate of epilepsy is nine per 100,000. On the other hand, there are only 320 psychiatrists in the country to deal with 176 million patients, according to WHO estimates.
Dr Shahid Ali Khan, head of psychiatry department at NESCOM Hospital said every day he receives 30-40 patients suffering from various kind of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders and headaches, among others. However, two years ago the number of patients who would visit him was give to 10 every day, he recalled.
“People are depressed over issues which can be resolved or controlled, such as inflation, unemployment, terrorism and power outrages,” he said.
Young people who mostly visit him are stressed about not getting admissions in colleges and universities due to their financial issues or not getting a job as they do not have the right ‘references’, he said.
“Such worries keep them up at night and they start smoking or taking drugs to get rid of the stress,” he said.
Dr Khan was of the view that the government should concentrate on improving the mental health of people by providing them a peaceful and healthy environment to reside in.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2014.