November 08, 2007

Lack of Mental Health Care in Pakistan

A new story out of Pakistan discusses how millions there lack proper mental health care despite the rising numbers of suicides, depression and mental illness in general. The article goes on to say that the exact number of people afflicted with mental illness isn't known and this is largely because of the stigma associated with having a mental disorder. Still, some officials believe that the rates of mental illness are on the rise in Pakistan and higher there than in other developing countries.

Part of the problem is the stigma associated with mental illness, possibly caused by a lack of education. Some people, especially in rural Pakistan, believe mental illness to be caused by evil spirits. Thus they are less likely to report their mental state to a physician, and may go to the aid of a holy man instead. This may only reaffirm their superstition, which in turn contributes to the vicious cycle of mental health miseducation.

A related problem is the low number of mental health professionals in the country. Many people who suffer from mental illness in Pakistan don't have access to help: "According to Lahore’s University of Health Sciences Vice-Chancellor Malik Hussain Mubashir, there is only one psychiatrist for every 10,000 people in Pakistan, one child psychiatrist for four million children estimated to be suffering mental-health issues and only four major psychiatric hospitals and 20 such units attached to teaching hospitals." And the few and seemingly fortunate mental illness sufferers with access to treatment aren't so.

According to the article, mentally ill patients can be mistreated at even the most prestigious mental health institutes in the country. This is particularly worrisome when considering the recent rise in mental health related problems. One report shows that a large number of people in Pakistan are depressed. Apparently, a large percentage of these are women, who the article hypothesizes as being depressed possibly because of their unequal social status. Adding to this is the high suicide rate--a reported 1,717 people took their lives in 2006--which experts believe could be the result of untreated mental health issues such as depression.

In the past, the government of Pakistan has attempted to make progress in the area of mental health by introducing the Mental Health Ordinance in 2001, but change has been slow. "The government's Director-General of Health, Aslam Chaudhry, accepts that mental health should be on the government's agenda." Right now this seems highly important, especially since proper mental health care and education appear to be lacking in Pakistan.

Full Story: IRIN, PAKISTAN: Millions lack access to mental healthcare


My younger sister is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. I am looking for a support group in Karachi, Pakistan to help her get insight in her illness and realize that there are other people with the same problem. Is there any support group available?.

Posted by: Tania Taufiq at March 12, 2008 02:20 AM

Schizophrenia is much sensitive topic specially in Pakistan coz peoples not different between mad and Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia
is typical psychological disorder and it need specific treatment. As hypnotherpist i saw behavior of peoples that they not cooperate with patient as well as with therapist in these specific disorder. so we need awareness about Schizophrenia for better treatment

Posted by: zafar iqbal at May 12, 2008 11:53 PM

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