By Anzal Amin
ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Tuesday called for joint efforts by stakeholders including the federal and provincial governments, the community and health professionals to work for the prevention and treatment of mental health disorders.
He said that it was a matter of serious concern that 24 percent of the country’s population was suffering from mental health-related issues, whereas only 500 to 600 mental health professionals were available in the country to cater to the needs of this population.
He emphasized the need for increasing the number of mental health professionals, besides strengthening the capacity of general health professionals by training them to address the challenge of rising mental health disorders.
The president expressed these views while chairing a meeting on mental health through the video link.
President of Pakistani American Psychiatric Association of North America (PAPANA), Dr Muhammad Zeeshan, representatives of the National Commission of Human Rights, World Health Organization, Pakistan Psychological Association, Pakistan Psychiatric Society, Taskeen Health Initiative, and Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination attended the meeting.
Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, Prof Dr M Waqar Azeem, Professor of Psychiatry and Program Director at the University of Nevada, Dr Mujeeb Shahd, Executive Vice Chair and Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Prof Dr Asim Shah, Director Muslim Mental Health Consortium, Prof Dr Farah Abbasi, Child Fellowship Director at the Harvard Medical School, Dr Zheala Qayyum, and Program Director Residency and Addiction Fellowship at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, Dr Nauman Ashraf, attended the meeting virtually.
The participants gave various suggestions to cope with the challenge of mental issues.
The meeting emphasized the need for raising awareness about the diseases, educating people about mental health, eliminating the stigma attached to it, and providing quality counseling and treatment to mental health patients.
The participants also called for capacity-building and training of health professionals in Pakistan, adding that a central coordinating mechanism among various stakeholders was also essential to avoid duplication of efforts.
The meeting also underscored the need for developing a national autism plan.
Prof Dr Rizwan Taj from PIMS informed the meeting that the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination had established an autism center at PIMS, adding that it would be a role model for provinces and other hospitals to follow.
The president appreciated the role of overseas Pakistani medical professionals, especially PAPANA, for supporting the initiative on mental health.