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ISLAMABAD: There are no federal government-run mental health hospital or institution anywhere in the country, the federal government told the National Assembly on Wednesday.

MNA Nuzhat Pathan had asked for the number of functional hospitals or institutions established by the government for mental health and the number of psychiatrists or psychologists working in them. She also asked for the number of mental health patients registered in the said facilities since 2017.

MNA Uzma Riaz asked if it was true that more than 35pc of Pakistan’s population suffer from mental illnesses.

The five mental hospitals are run by provincial governments

National Health Services (NHS) Minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani was not attending the session. However, through a written reply, he said that there were separate psychiatry departments in the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) and Polyclinic.

He said the psychiatry department at Pims is functional and that posts at Polyclinic have been advertised by the Federal Public Service Commission, which will be filled shortly.

The other two hospitals - Federal General Hospital and National Institute of Rehabilitation - have no such departments.

Some 39,000 patients with mental illnesses have been registered at Pims since 2017. However, no seminars, conventions or public awareness activities were undertaken since 2017.

In the written reply, the minister has said that it is not true that 35pc of the country’s population suffers from mental illnesses and that a 2016 study by the Global Burden of Disease says Pakistan has a prevalence of 14pc of mental and substance abuse disorder.

NHS Parliamentary Secretary Dr Nausheen Hamid said there are five mental hospitals across the country, none of which are run by the federal government.

She said efforts are being made to provide treatment for mental illnesses at basic health units and rural health centres. Ms Hamid also said there is no mental health policy or authentic data available as successive governments had not given much attention to mental health. She said the present government is now in the process of preparing a policy for dealing with the neglected sector.

Depression accounts for 6pc of mental illnesses in Pakistan and the rate is increasing due to a myriad of issues such as economic loss, insecurity, political uncertainty, unemployment, stressful working conditions, gender discrimination and disruption of social settings.

During an event at Pims last month, Department of Psychiatry Chairperson Prof Rizwan Taj said depression cases were documented in ancient Rome, Arabic and Greek writings.

He said 10 to 20pc of young people may have mental or emotional disorders, warranting treatment at any time. Some mental disorders onset during childhood and adolescence and so impair education and vocational choices.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2018