Mental illness in Pakistan

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Najeeb Swali
The fact that nearly 35pc of Pakistanis suffer from some form of mental illness and require psychological help as per the Pakistan Association for Mental Health should be enough to jolt our policymakers into action. The WHO was already expecting the number of global deaths caused by depression to surpass the fatalities resulting from cancer by 2020. Furthermore, some 13,000 people commit suicide every year in the country. According to the PAMH, and out of them 95pc suffer from mental disorders. But unfortunately, lack of political attention to the issue and misconceptions about mental health has the course, and also the understanding of the larger impact, fairly limited. Thus, it is hardly surprising that the majority of sufferers do not receive any help or counselling. The 2001 mental health ordinance barely delivered and after devolution the provinces have not made strong and effective mental health laws a priority. Consequently, it is crucial for the government to take steps to synergise mental health interventions with the primary healthcare infrastructure in the country. And we must note that mental illness is a cry for help which family members and the community at large should heed.