Mental health- the most contemptibly neglected field

Beenish Javaid
In Pakistan, around 50 million people are suffering from common mental disorders, which is about 10-20% of the population. According to WHO, there are only 400 trained psychiatrists and 5 psychiatric hospitals in the entire country, which shows an alarming psychiatrist-to-person ratio of 1 to over a half million people. And only 0.4% of health care expenditure is devoted to mental health.Many patients never seek treatment, quit prematurely or are shunned by family members, which is so unfortunate. The STIGMA and misleading stereotypes, about the people suffering from mental illness, is a hurdle in the struggle of such people to cope with their condition. They have to fight a double battle. On one hand, they have to struggle with their illness. On the other hand, they are challenged by the prejudice and discrimination. They suffer in silence and the condition worsens.The STIGMA limits an individual from gaining complete social acceptance, which have devastating consequences. Most of the time, such patients are thought to be weak and more often than not, they are asked to be strong and strengthen their faith to reduce the disease. No doubt, religion is wonderful, but it is critical to acknowledge that like other illnesses, mental illnesses also have a biochemical process, that certainly requires adequate treatment.Another hindrance in seeking treatment is the myths about psychiatry and psychiatric patients. Such patients are thought to be violent and crazy. But the truth is that they are much more likely to be victims than culprits. Only a few psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, present as psychosis.As a result of lack of awareness and stereotypes, patients end up approaching peers and hakims, ultimately finding no relief. It is tragic, as it results in further deterioration.We should recognize our responsibility to increase the awareness about mental illness and uproot the stigma from our communities. The least we can do is to allow for mentally ill patients, to seek adequate support, because early intervention can prevent the patient from further deterioration. Don’t wait for the calamity to strike you or your closed ones, to raise the voice.

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