20m psychiatric patients include many in National Assembly: Alvi

Updated November 17, 2018

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“Being a doctor, I know the hardships faced by people suffering from mental illnesses,” the president says.— AFP/File
“Being a doctor, I know the hardships faced by people suffering from mental illnesses,” the president says.— AFP/File

LAHORE: President Dr Arif Alvi has urged psychiatrists to focus on some National Assembly members before treating the 20 million psychiatric patients in the country.

Referring to a professor’s presentation at the International Psychiatric Conference, Dr Alvi said he could point out a significant number of politicians in the country who needed psychiatric treatment. “I understand that this huge number of 20 million are not constant patients, but includes those suffering from mental stress during certain phases of their lives,” he added.

The president was speaking at the conference organised by the Pakistan Psychiatric Society at a local hotel on Friday.

He said that human reaction could not be quantified, and that humanity had attempted to bring about peace and rational thinking into actions and reactions. “The recent history belies the fact that humanity rationalised things and reacted on that basis,” he added.

Regretting that psychiatric problems were considered a stigma for patients, he said he had faced a lot of difficulties in convincing patients about the need for consulting a psychiatrist. “Being a doctor, I know the hardships faced by people suffering from mental illnesses,” he said.

Dr Alvi said that psychiatric patients could not be treated until they accepted there was a problem and opened up to seeking qualified treatment. Otherwise, those people ended up visiting faith healers and pirs. “The exploitation of the ignorant by the ignorant is a serious issue,” he added.

Narrating one of his personal experiences, President Alvi said that when he was contesting an election in 2002, some “people told me that I should go to a pir who will help me get all the votes”, adding that he was ignorant so went to one in Baldia Town. The pir assured him that he would win, but he ended up losing with a huge margin.

PROTOCOL: As the president arrived at Lahore airport earlier in the day, he got upset with the security detail waiting to escort him. He refused to leave the airport till the protocol vehicles returned. Tweeting from the airport, he wrote: “I am at Lahore airport and there are 32 cars to escort me waiting outside. Will wait until they are sent away before I move out.”

He also stated that he was continuously struggling to keep security but reduce protocol that inconvenienced people.

Dr Alvi only came out of the airport after the protocol vehicles left, and he travelled to the Governor House with a five-car escort. He also expressed displeasure over the unnecessary protocol extended to him since he took the office of the president, and urged to follow party policy against VVIP culture that irritated commuters. “I do not begrudge security but when it becomes painful for the common man, we should draw a line somewhere,” he had tweeted a couple of months ago.

At Governor House, the president held a joint meeting with Governor Chaudhry Sarwar and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and discussed political and administrative affairs. Mr Buzdar briefed the president about the Punjab government’s performance during the first 90 days.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2018