Time For Pakistan To Seriously Start Talking About Mental Health

‘Young people and mental health are changing the world’ was the theme of Mental Health Day celebrated this year. Well, in the context of Pakistan, if we say mental health IS changing young people – it holds true.

Yesterday Pakistan mourned the death of a young student who gave up on life and people, taking her own life by jumping off the fourth floor of her university’s building. Not too long ago, we mourned the death of a young model who took her own life because of cyber-bullying. A few days ago, we mourned the death of a young student who shot himself because of the educational institute’s inconsiderate behaviour. And the list goes on and on.

How many young lives will it take for us to finally realise that words we say matter? How many dreams will have to die before we finally break the stigma and start treating deteriorating mental health as an actual illness?

Also See: Five Warning Signs That Tell Someone Is Thinking Of Committing Suicide

30% of the Pakistani population is between the age group of 15 to 29 years old. Globally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among this specific age bracket. This age group is usually when an individual faces countless mental challenges. From identity crisis to struggling to have everything sorted out all at once, at this crucial point youth are prone to falling prey to their own thoughts.

According to The Burden of Mental Disorders in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, a recent study that assessed data from 1999 to 2013, Pakistan and Afghanistan are facing the highest number of chronic diseases. including mental health.

Also See: Forced Marriages, Rising Suicide Cases and Murders In Pakistan

As per available statistics, mental disorders account for 4% of Pakistan’s disease burden, with it occurring more among women. World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 24 million people in Pakistan are in need of psychiatrist help but the allocated resources are insufficient to meet the rising trend. Pakistan’s attitude towards mental health can be well reflected by the fact that the country only has 0.19 psychiatrists per 100,000 inhabitants – which is one of the lowest numbers in WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region and also in the entire world.

Here comes the main question – where do we start? 

The problem seems to grow, continuously, while we still hold on to the attached stigmas. The educational institutions specifically need to start playing an imperative role. The same point was raised by Mahira Khan after the recent incident, and she pressed for the need of counsellors in schools particularly. Also, Pakistani educational culture pays little to no attention to bullying and labelling culture, which can certainly change the way an individual sees himself/herself.

The government also needs to initiate discussions and bring people’s attention to it. And lastly, it is our own responsibility to keep a check on people around us. And not only check them, but also be considerate. For we must realise that just like our kind words can make someone’s day, an insensitive comment can take someone’s life as well.

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