BY Ayesha Areej: Mental health is one of the rising and the most neglected problems of the people of Pakistan. In a country where religion is the only resort for all the problems, whether they are of any kind, people very rarely tend to consider their problems of psychological nature.

“Her teachers expelled her from school by saying that she is mentally sick; and now she cries for not being like other school girls. She experiences episodes of anxiety and her heart starts palpitating very fast. In the midnight, she wakes up and screams. She often denounces her parents. We have visited psychiatrists many a times but we do not afford it anymore,” says Selma, mother of a psychologically sick girl Hina who lives in Manga Mandi, a town 30 kilometers south of Lahore.

Such is the condition of every fourth or fifth home there. People live there in extreme poverty facing problems of daily life and mental health problems are not a novelty.

They get sick; others say that it is about evil spirits. So they try panacea or the most enlightened ones take painkillers for their depression.

When they get tired of not getting better, they are cursed and stigmatized again and again which adds to their bad psychological condition. They live by dying every day.

This is not the story of just one area; the whole country is abounded with this kind of cases. People who face such issues are discouraged to express them, those who do not, consider them non-issues and stigmas.

The above case and facts were reported by the team of psychology students from Punjab University as they made a visit to Manga Mandi for mental health awareness under the supervision of their eminent lecturer and psychologist Dr. Mujeeba Ashraf.

“The awareness campaigns at university and other posh areas have already been held and people are getting enough information through social media as well. We need to work in the areas where people have none of those facilities and where the situation is even worse,” said Dr. Mujeeba while talking to Lahore Times.

She added: “Mental health and problems make a direct link to the socioeconomic status and thus the worries of daily life. There is a dire need for such people to seek psychological help and that government has a responsibility of providing them basic facilities and taking mental health seriously.”

None of the nearby hospitals provide mental health facilities over there so people have to travel all the way to Lahore city for any treatment which becomes very expensive for them.

There is a need for proper training of mental health practitioners. Pakistan fails to give psychologists an equal standing as physicians hold. Moreover, the stereotypes and stigmas related to mental health must be addressed seriously and strategically if we have to save our people.

Mental illness has now become even more common than cancer, diabetes and heart diseases. The rates of suicides are increasing day by day, particularly in third world, and Pakistan holds a high rank in it. It is incumbent on the state institutions to give these issues foremost priority, in order to protect its people from these fatal mental disorders and illnesses.

We should not let the suicides happen and the people die of panic attacks and depression. Neither should we let these people become a stigma for their illnesses. We need to realize it before it is too late.