World Mental Health Day is observed on the 10th of October every year with a vision of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and year.
Mental health in Pakistan has remained a subject of debate since the last few years. The incidence and prevalence have both increased tremendously in the background of growing insecurity, terrorism, economical problems, political uncertainty, unemployment and disruption of the social fabric.
According to health experts, a huge population in Pakistan is living with mental illness that remains undetected and untreated due to the absence of child psychiatrists while child sex abuse is still underreported in the country because of the stigma attached to it.
Pakistan has only four to five trained psychiatrists for treatment of adolescents suffering from mental illness including one in Karachi, two in Lahore and one in Rawalpindi, said Head of Institute of Psychiatry. Studies reveal that half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14 and in most of the undetected and unreported cases, like that in Pakistan, the result is depression and that is why suicide is one of the leading causes of death among population between the age of 15 and 29.
Unfortunately Pakistan has one of the lowest mental illness patient-to-doctor ratios in the world. In a seminar held earlier this year in Karachi, a prominent Pakistani doctor revealed that Pakistan has only 380 trained psychiatrists — meaning that there is roughly one psychiatrist available per half-million people. The result is that even when patients fighting something as common as depression or anxiety recognize their symptoms, overcome the stigma, gain the support of their families and start looking for medical help, there simply isn’t much help to be had.
Mental health awareness has always been a constant struggle in a country like Pakistan where psychiatric services and resources are so limited. Faced with stressors like erratic gas, electricity and water supplies, rising inflation, unemployment, the breakdown of law and order, political uncertainty, terrorism, and the disruption of the social fabric, Karachiites are finding themselves unable to cope. As a result, mental disorders are on the increase, especially depression. Religion has been touted as a panacea to all their problems, but given the rising number of suicides in the city, mental illness is a time bomb that will take many innocent victims with it when it explodes.