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PILL and STMU Collaborate to Promote Mental Health as a Basic Human Right on World Mental Health Day


ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Institute of Living and Learning (PILL) and its partner organizations, in collaboration with Shifa Tameer-e-Millat University (STMU), orchestrated a unique hybrid event to commemorate World Mental Health Day 2023. This event united thought leaders, professionals, human rights organizations, and mental health advocates for an expert panel discussion, fostering a profound conversation on the theme of ‘Mental Health as a Fundamental Human Right.’ The event’s Chief Guest was Vice Chancellor Prof. Mohammad Iqbal from STMU.

Dr. Rakhshi Memon, a Research Fellow from the University College London, and GELH Chair, expressed gratitude for the event’s support. She emphasized the importance of universal recognition of mental health as a fundamental right and the need to challenge stigmas. Additionally, Vice Chancellor Prof. Mohammad Iqbal highlighted the role of education and workforce training in enhancing mental healthcare access for all, envisioning a future where it’s a right for everyone.

Chief Guest and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mohammad Iqbal, shed light on the importance of education and awareness in improving access to mental health care for all. He remarked that training our workforce adequately is key to disseminating the right information to the general population and enhancing primary healthcare services in the country. His visionary stance highlighted a path toward a future where mental health care is not a privilege but an inherent right for all citizens.

Professor Mowadat H Rana, a Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences expert, introduced this year’s theme, emphasizing that mental health is fundamental to overall well-being and progress, requiring a collective responsibility for promotion and protection across diverse backgrounds.

InIn Session 1, titled ‘Mental Health Risk Factors: Protecting Mental Wellbeing,’ Prof. Fareed Minhas delivered a keynote address on early identification of mental health concerns. Dr. Sawera Mansoor expertly facilitated the discussion, with a distinguished panel, including Prof. Tahir Khalili, Dr. Aneela Maqsood, and Prof. Asad Tamizuddin. They focused on safeguarding mental well-being and preventing mental illness, especially in young people, setting the stage for an informative event promoting mental health awareness and well-being.

Session 2, ‘Universal Mental Health Care Challenges,’ addressed obstacles to equitable access. Dr. Zafar Mirza, former State Minister of Health, highlighted the need to address systemic issues for universal access. Dr. Wahab Yusafzai facilitated the discussion, emphasizing the complexities of making mental health care available to all. The panel, including Mr. Mashood Mirza, Dr. Usman Hamdani, and Prof. Mowadat H Rana, discussed multifaceted challenges, stressing the importance of removing barriers and fostering collaboration for mental health access. A real-life perspective was shared by AIG Helena Iqbal Saeed, highlighting the need for compassion and fairness.

In Session 3, ‘Mental Health and Human Rights,’ Barrister Sarah Belal from Justice Project Pakistan highlighted challenges and successes in protecting the rights of individuals with mental health conditions in Pakistan. Dr. Roop Zainab, a Consultant Psychiatrist, facilitated the discussion with a panel including Prof. Tausif Rajput, Prof. Major Gen Muhammad Aslam, Advocate Shahida Sukhera, and Dr. Taha Sabri. They discussed factors in advocating for a more inclusive and compassionate society, irrespective of mental health status.

In her closing remarks, Prof. Nasim Chaudhry, CEO of PILL, expressed gratitude to facilitators, panelists, speakers, and guests for advocating vital mental health support. She emphasized their shared goal of raising awareness, cultivating empathy, and advancing a rights-based approach, underlining the importance of equity and dignity for all.

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