The problem of mental health in PakistanPakistan is home to around 200 million people. Despite such a huge population, the country has “one of the poorest mental health indicators” worldwide and “less than 500 psychiatrists,” according to the Lancet Psychiatry. The discrepancy between the high population and corresponding medical support for mental health in Pakistan raises a need to investigate the causes, statistics and potential solutions regarding mental health in the country.

The Stigma and Spiritualism

Around 90% of the population of Pakistan with common mental health disorders do not have access to treatment. And the British Asian Trust reports that roughly “50 million people in the country suffer from mental health disorders.”  Also, “stigma, awareness and a lack of service” are all potential explanations for the mental health issues in Pakistan.

There is a common stigmatization of mental health and its effects in Pakistan, thus impacting the lack of awareness and support for those in the country struggling with mental health disorders. Along with this, there is also a recurring association between mental health and spiritualism. According to Sehat Kahani, people often use supernatural causes to explain mental health. In addition, communities look to religion as a cure for mental health issues. While religious observance may be able provide contentment for those suffering, an over-reliance on it in place of psychiatric health could actually hinder progress.

Poverty Impacting Mental Health

Sehat Kahani also suggests that as poverty is a prominent issue within Pakistan, mental health support is a “luxury” for many people in the country. As a result, there is a growing inaccessibility to essential mental health support services for a majority of those with mental health disorders.

According to the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience, there is no political or governmental policy regarding the problem of mental health in Pakistan. An absence of mental health practices within the routines and schedules of trainee doctors bolsters this lack of awareness.

According to the World Bank, poverty in Pakistan could reach 37.2% in 2023. This equates to almost 3 million Pakistani people living in poverty. There is a significant cost to private mental health care in the country. Dr. Shoaib Ahmad, the psychiatric department head at Karachi Dow’s University of Health Sciences, notes that patients have to “pay Rs200,000 to Rs300,000 in advance to a well-known therapist in advance to book an appointment.” For those living in impoverished conditions, this could be massively unaffordable.

Making a Change

The COSARAF foundation, alongside the CareTech foundation and the British Asian Trust, has partnered to invest £1 million to deliver changes in mental health wellbeing and provisions in Pakistan. The program will cover access to clinical mental health services as well as access to mental health support for individuals suffering from mental health issues within their own communities as well as an increase in overall awareness.

According to COSARAF, the program aims to “enable 100,000 people with mental health problems to access mental health support within their communities, provide access to clinical mental health services for 10,000 people and ensure that 500,000 people have increased awareness of issues relating to mental health, leading to reduced stigma around mental health.”

Looking Ahead

In response to the urgent need for improved mental health support in Pakistan, the COSARAF Foundation, the CareTech Foundation and the British Asian Trust have joined forces to implement initiatives that aim to make a positive change. Through increased access to clinical services, community-based support and heightened awareness, these initiatives aim to benefit thousands of individuals and contribute to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. This collaborative effort holds the potential to create a brighter future for mental health in Pakistan.

– Ibrahim Azam
Photo: Unsplash

Rural Indian Farmers British Asian Trust
Prince Charles is not only royalty, but he is also the founder and president of the British Asian Trust (BAT). And on Feb. 3, 2016, he announced a new fund designed to improve the lives of small Indian farmers at the BAT’s annual fundraising gala in London.

Like many farmers in developing countries, rural Indian farmers are caught in a poverty trap. They make just enough money to survive but not enough money to invest in productivity-raising methods and equipment. Without access to affordable loans, they are unable to improve their lives for themselves and their families.

Prince Charles understands their plight and hopes to reverse their situation. At the gala, he said, “These smaller holder farmers often realize only a small proportion of the value of their products and can get caught in a poverty trap with no obvious way out. By making real inroads into helping the [agricultural] sector upscale, the fund will increase productivity in a sustainable way and make a staggering difference to so many lives.”

According to a 2012-2013 Report on Employment and Unemployment Survey by the Indian government, the majority of rural Indian households rely on agriculture as their means of employment. Furthermore, nearly half are self-employed. By giving them the means to invest in themselves, Prince Charles hopes he can change the face of poverty in the Indian countryside.

History provides a reason to be optimistic about Prince Charles’ goals. Prior to the 1980s, Chinese farmers were also caught in a poverty trap. By privatizing collective farms and encouraging an open market, Chinese farmers could make more money than they needed to feed themselves. They invested this extra money into increasing their agricultural productivity. Little by little, the Chinese economy grew and then exploded into the powerhouse economy of China today.

The BAT also announced another fund dedicated to skills training in Pakistan. This will be its “largest-ever fund” — and the BAT will work alongside the Aman Foundation to bring knowledge and skills to the country’s most disadvantaged people.

To raise money for this project and for South Asian communities in general, the BAT will also begin a public fundraising drive with the UK Department for International Development (DiFD). The goal is to raise £3 million and the DiFD will match donations given by the public.

This will be the first time that the British Asian Trust appeals to the public on a national basis. While the BAT has raised millions for South Asian nations over the last nine years, all proceeds have come from private and corporate donations. At this year’s gala, for example, over £900,000 was raised for charity. Numerous celebrities attended, including British filmmaker Gurinder Chadha and actor Sanjeev Bhaskar.

Prince Charles and his British Asian Trust have ambitious plans for the year, such as starting a new fund in India, a new fund in Pakistan and its first-ever public fundraising drive. If they succeed, they’ll bring Indian farmers out of poverty, give Pakistani people much-needed skills and raise money and awareness for South Asia’s most vulnerable.

Dennis Sawyers

Sources: Government of India, Ministry of Labor and Employment, International Business Times, NDTV
Photo: Wikimedia