Alhaj Muhammad Khan

Sensitizing society on mental health

A.M. Khan

Limited health services are available in Chitral in terms of doctors in major fields and facilities. Mental health is but a secondary matter of concern in medical settings either in public or private health services. This is a case not limited to Chitral, as a whole the country faces scarcity of mental health specialists and medical interventions.

The bitter truth of ‘toxicity’ without knowing its impact in expression, interactions and discussions, euphemism and metaphors are past hangovers in traditional settings in the area that continue unabated where people largely are uneducated about matters related to mental health. It still incurs heavy prices. And the blame partly rests on a person’s sensitivity and for not being strong enough combating stress. It is of no use socially insensitive mind to measure side effects of what it says and does.  

When there is a debate about society’s past apathy about suicides today in Chitral it’s kept limited to a few people as they spent more time in the close circle of mentally ill person, and blame is settled on them after family and vice-versa without considering very factors of mental health of a person. The fact is that family indeed matters and circle of friends as they come from different backgrounds and engage with different social institutions i.e., school, colleges, park and playground, town, village and neighborhood leave impressions.

Mental health requires both medical and social interventions to face it out. Awareness initiatives and programs are important, but they must also be directed to target toxicity and insensitivity in society.

Pakistan Association of Mental Health (PAMH) estimates 13,000 deaths, from committing suicides, in the country every year. Of them 95pc suffer from mental disorders. Studies also indicate 35pc people in Pakistan suffer from some form of mental illnesses.

Mental help and treatment of mental illness is the only way out. The situation had been quite deep, except this year in Chitral, with few cases of suicide resulting from academic competition and socio-economic situations dictate those who remain susceptible to stimuli triggering stress to aggressive depression.

There is a big shortage of specialists in Pakistan treating mental illnesses, and shortage of mental health facilities. Every mental health patient surely receives no mental treatment in Chitral. It may be the case with someone in cities receiving any medical help, treatment, and counselling from a specialist. In Chitral, it happens when mentally ill person becomes difficult to control at home, he is handed over to police in custody. Pathetically, this patient remains in jail like an accused.

Given the increasing cases of suicides in Chitral arising from mental stresses, there is still no mental health specialist. Nor provincial government has deputed a single mental health specialist in two districts of Chitral till now. This demand continues as relevant as it was a few years back.    

Besides personal sufferings of mentally ill person, not only the family members but the community at large suffers from any form and nature of such illness. Mental illnesses are no contagious but impressionable to societal pressure. Now it’s recognized as a mental health issue by a segment of society, and its stigmatization declines but its treatment settings are yet to be initiated.  

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