Mental health crisis

By: Deedar Ali Bangwar

Pakistan believes that the incidence and prevalence of mental illness in Pakistan is massively increasing in the background of increasing insecurity, poverty, violence, terrorism, economical problems, political uncertainty, unemployment, gender discrimination, and genetic factors.   Depression is much more than sadness, it differs from person to person and even with age but has some common symptoms. Occasionally psychological crises can result in depression and sometimes it relies on the day-to-day life of an individual where they undergo depressed mood, loss of interest, feeling guilt, and much more. More than 25% of patients sustaining depression are suffering from psychotic depression.   Mental health is the most dilapidated field in Pakistan where 10-16% of the population, more than 14 million, suffers from mild to moderate psychiatric disorders, the majority of which are women. Pakistan has only one psychiatrist for every 10,000 persons withstanding from any of the cognitive infections, while one child psychiatrist for four million children, who are rated to be suffering from mental health problems. Only four major psychiatric hospitals exist for the population of 220 million and it is one of the main components behind rising in the volume of patients with mental disorders.   

There is also no political discipline and no formal mental health policy in Pakistan. All this negatively impacts the integration of care provided by government health care professionals for patients with mental disorders. The main mental disorders in Pakistan are depression (6%), schizophrenia (1.5%) and epilepsy (1-2%)This year the theme for World Mental Health Day is ‘Depression’: A global crisis’. According to World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects more than 350 million ages, in all nations and is a crucial contributor to the global pressure of disease and give to a high suicide rate. Whereas there are known effective medications for depression, access to treatment is a problem in most countries. In Pakistan, the majority of psychiatrists go to ancestral belief healers and religious healers who understand that mental illness is affected by supernatural forces such as spirit possession or testing by God. ”All this is because of the sensitive scarcity of mental health professionals a d somewhat low levels of cognition about mental disorders. Women in Pakistan frequently deal with domestic violence besides restrictions in equivalent rights, especially in rural areas. Other risk factors are divoior widowed status, conflict with in-laws, economic distress, and the status of being a housewife rather than employed.   

A survey of mental health issues of university students was performed on 1850 participants in the age range 19-26 years. An indigenous Student Problem Checklist (SPCL). 2011, 45 items is a rating scale, designed to decide the prevalence rate of mental health problems among university students. This scale is associated with four dimensions of mental health problems as narrated by university students, such as a Sense of being Dysfunctional, Loss of confidence, Lack of self Regulation and anxiety proneness. Pakistan is home to about 220 million people but has one of the worst cognitive health Indexes and less than 500 psychiatrists for this population scope. This deficiency of mental health professionals in Pakistan generates a huge medicine gap, giving up more than 90% of people with common mental diseases untreated.   

There is an alarming necessity of expanding psychiatrist staff in teaching hospitals where posts of specialist psychiatrists should be developed. The mental health Act should be enforced with letter and spirit. Public insight policies addressing mental health problems should be introduced throughout the media.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Kandhkot, Sindh. He can be reached at [email protected]