AS the 69th World Mental Health Awareness month, observed in a number of countries, comes to a close, the theme of fitness “for the mind and body” should prompt us to ask how we ourselves can take charge and keep healthy, exercise and nutrition being a crucial part of overall emotional well-being. A 2016 study utilised published data of mental illnesses to demonstrate how scientific approaches thus far have consistently underestimated the global burden of mental illness by more than a third. This places mental illness in first position in the global burden of diseases with cardiovascular and circulatory ailments at a distant second place. Further, the treatment gap for mental illness is almost 90pc in developing countries. The fundamentals of mental health and mental illness define mental disorders as emotional patterns, revealed by behavioural changes that are associated with distress or disability within society. It is well-documented that a background of prolonged violence and displacement worsens pre-existing mental health burdens of populations as has been apparent throughout Pakistan’s historical narrative. The shared experiences of violence through acts of terrorism and insecurity, disruption of societal structures, economic constraints, increasing unemployment and reduced access to care as people sink further below the poverty line all point to a country rife with political uncertainty seven decades on.
However, leaders in nutrition and fitness fields in many other parts of the developing world are using information and working with mental health professionals to promote health overall, keeping the focus on emotional hygiene. This, together with mental health screenings, can impact the emotional well-being of millions — through social media where possible — with local events connecting communities. However in Pakistan, the apathy shown by the authorities’ lack of investment in public-sector service provision for mental health — for both patients and professionals — has to be overcome to reduce the human, social, and economic costs of mental illnesses in the country.
Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2018