Country turning increasingly depressed, mental health body warns

Hasan Mansoor

Actual number of people with depression and other mental disorder much higher then the recognised 37pc.–File

KARACHI: The Pakistan Association for Mental Health (PAMH) has said the country is increasingly getting ‘depressed’ with each passing day; while its largest city is offering much larger figures of people suffering from mental disorders.

“The actual number of the people with depression and other mental disorders is much more than the recognised 37 per cent aggregate and the same for Karachi is even much worse,” said Dr S Haroon Ahmed, president of the PAMH while speaking to Dawn on Saturday.

He said the stress level was getting worse in the country with the passage of time with every fourth house had mental health problem requiring specialised help for treatment.

The PAMH officials said the organisation was deeply concerned about the rising incidence of mental disorders in Pakistan, particularly in Karachi.

“The stress related to everyday life is taking its toll,” it said.

People are depressed because of erratic electricity, because of unsatisfactory water and gas supply, and the galloping food prices, said Dr Saima Qureshi, general secretary, PAMH, and project coordinator for awareness, Dr Salamat Kamal.

Experts said every hurdle that hindered the smooth everyday life caused increased stress level in people; and, as the time passed they turned into illnesses requiring specialised assistance.

The PAMH officials said daily hardships suffered by people in commuting between the workplace and home, insecurity due to law and order breakdown and political uncertainly, all such factors were taking their toll.

“The sad part of it is that the impact of such stressors on human psyche is going unrecognised,” said a PAMH official.

A brief report compiled by the PAMH said: “Add to the depression, the stressed people are opting out to drugs, religiosity and / or suicides.”

It said that the stress-ridden environment was impacting on the individual and community at large, with behaviour changes like violence, sickness and withdrawing into self.

Dr Ahmed said 25 per cent of the people with mental disorder suffered from depression and women were depressed twice as that of men.

“Biological reasons and most restrictive environment causes increased depression among women,” said Dr Ahmed.

He said at least a person in every second house in the city was taking tranquilisers.

He blamed the free availability of anti-depressants without prescription in the market.

PAMH officials said targeted killings, street crimes, sex-related offences, including the barbaric act of kidnapping, rape and murder of young children, were playing havoc with the mental health of people.

“At least the avoidable stressors need urgent attention by the state by providing amenities such as clean water, unadulterated food, genuine medicine, transport, hygienic environment, curbing crime and security,” said an official.

The PAMH report said it would like to be whistleblower for the impending disastrous consequences that would tear apart the very fabric of the society, stealing away the productive potential and innovative capacity of the nation’s workforce.

“The superficial explanation for the state of affairs and sermons to observe moral values of the land cannot correct this course which our society has taken,” it said.

The officials of the association said the PAMH had decided to organise a four-week awareness campaign next month to highlight the need for action both by the government and society.

Originally published in Dawn, December 30th, 2018


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