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KARACHI, Oct 12: Mental health is the fifth major non-communicable disease worldwide and one person lives in every fifth house in Pakistan who is in need of psychiatric help, experts said on Saturday.

“Mental health emerged from dark corners of denial to a realisation that this area of health has great bearing on the progress of any community or nation. Acceptance is gradually dawning that mental disorder is fifth major non-communicable disease worldwide,” said Prof S. Haroon Ahmed, president of the Pakistan Association for Mental Health (PAMH), at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club.

He said major disorders estimated by the World Health Organisation were unipolar disorder (10 per cent), schizophrenia (2pc), bipolar disorder (2pc), dementia (2pc), substance and alcohol abuse disorder (4pc), epilepsy (1pc) and other neurological and neuropsychatric disorders (5pc).

He said a major societal concern about increasing suicide rates, which were secondary to depressive disorder, was still not appreciated.

He said the Mental Health Ordinance 2001 replaced the obsolete Lunacy Act 1912 but it was not practical nor any effort made to implement it.

He said after the 18th constitutional amendment, the MHO 2001 got scrapped and the federal mental health authority stood dissolved.

“Provinces were asked to frame their own laws. It is only in Sindh where its assembly passed the Sindh Mental Health Act 2013, which is the first such act in a hundred years,” he said.

He said Pakistan had formally resolved to hold rest of the world’s hand to give a ‘great push’ to a global initiative to include mental health in the leading non-communicable diseases with cancer, cardiovascular disorder, respiratory disorder and diabetes.

“We are fully committed with the world bodies on mental health in their quest to get the global health authorities accepted that mental, neurological and substance use disorders and their multidirectional interactions are among the five major non-communicable diseases,” he said.

The PAMH distributed the abridged edition of the recently-launched ‘The people’s charter for mental health’ – a global initiative taken by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) and the Movement for Global Mental Health (MGMH).

Prof Ahmed said six well-researched articles in Lancet in 2007 were the push for mental health professionals to form a pressure group, MGMH.

The WFMH initiated and requested active professionals in various countries to form groups for advocating with the United Nations and the World Health Organisation to include mental health in the five major diseases.

In Pakistan, he said, professionals formed an advocacy group, which wrote letters and memoranda to the WHO representative in Pakistan and the country’s delegate to the UN General Assembly.

He said the People’s Charter for Mental Health was developed by the professionals affiliated with more than 500 mental health bodies and launched this year.

“It is a great triumph. Indeed, mental health problems are rampant and interfering in all walks of our life. They are going to feature in the WHO Agenda for Action.”

He said the WFMH had demanded convening of a UN General Assembly special session for mental health and appointment of a special envoy for mental health.

Prof Ahmed identified the areas of concern depicted in the people’s charter, which included a national mental health strategic plan by all countries campaigning to eliminate stigma and discrimination, strengthening the primary care capacity, adequate and qualified level of professional staff in primary and secondary care; strengthening the psychological treatment and recovery and returning to work; facilitating the movement from mental hospital to community care; enabling early intervention for treatment and prevention; availability of appropriate medicine, and enactment of mental health law protecting the rights of patients and their families.