LAHORE: The World Mental Health Day has largely gone unnoticed across Punjab despite the fact that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared ‘one in every eight people of the world’ is living with a mental disorder.

Every year, the day is observed on a large scale all over the world on Oct 10 but in Punjab, most of the state-run health facilities ignored it.

The Fountain House located near the Civil Secretariat, however, organised a series of events to sensitise the government authorities and public to the significance of the matter.

A drama was staged at the Fountain House where male and female ‘members’ of the institute performed to encourage their fellows to become a part of the ‘healthy society’.

A large number of other members (patients) of the institute also attended the event while the officials and some parents and relatives of the patients were present.

Talking to Dawn, Fountain House Medical Superintendent (MS) Dr Imran Nazir showed his displeasure over the world mental health day not being taken seriously in Pakistan. About its significance, he said everyone was at some risk of developing a mental health disorder.

According to an estimate, he added, every fourth person in Pakistan was facing some mental health problem and the situation might further aggravate in the near future if the matter was ignored. He said the number of people living with anxiety and depressive disorders had risen significantly when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world hard in 2020.

“The mental disorders involve significant disturbances in thinking, emotional regulation, or behaviour,” Dr Amir said and added that the disease burden had increased manifold in Pakistan but the country had no statistics or data bank of those suffering from mental disorders.

“The most disturbing part is that we don’t like to discuss it even in official or private events,” he said.

“We are afraid of taking patients to a psychiatrist to avoid criticism from society and relatives,” Dr Amir said and lamented that most patients visited the spiritual healers or quacks to seek alternate remedies.

“I think, this day should be observed every day keeping in view the burden of the mental health diseases,” Dr Amir Aziz suggested and stressed upon the government to review its policy and establish more institutes to address the chronic mental disorders.

To a question, he said that currently the Fountain House had 650 members (patients) in its three institutes located in Lahore, Sargodha and Farooqabad.

In Lahore, there were 400 members (patients), including 100 women, who were getting treatment against various kinds of mental health problems,” Dr Amir Aziz concluded.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2022

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