No True Physical Health Without Mental Health Dr. Chisholm

Dr. Brock Chisholm, the first Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and a psychiatrist, stated that “Without mental health, there can be no true physical health.”

There is a misconception that mental health is separate from physical health. In this regard, Dr. Brock Chisholm, the first Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and a psychiatrist, stated that “Without mental health, there can be no true physical health.” (Kolappa et al., 2013)

The problems related to mental health issues should be highlighted and given immediate attention as they have a significant impact on an individual’s physical health because these problems act as risk factors for other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

For instance, people with type II diabetes mellitus are more prone to depression, and those patients who are currently suffering from depression due to type II diabetes find it difficult to take care of themselves. (Kolappa et al., 2013)

While mental health issues have gripped the world, Pakistan is not free from them either. Pakistan, home to an estimated population of 210 million people, is currently suffering from the grave challenge of mental health issues, with the prevalence of mental disorders up to 10% affecting approximately 20 million people, with depression and anxiety being the most common ones. (Alvi et al., 2023)

The situation is unsurprising amid the country’s economic crisis and political instability. This is further exacerbated by the lack of a proper mental healthcare system to deal with these issues. It was reported that, for the whole population, there are only four large psychiatric hospitals and fewer than 500 trained psychiatrists. (Javed et al., 2020)

Because addressing mental health issues is not the primary goal of Pakistan’s healthcare system, less than 1% of the country’s total health budget, or 9.31 dollars per person per year, has been set aside for mental health issues. This amount is significantly less than the required 60 dollars per person annually. (Siddiqui & Khan, 2021)

Due to the lack of an effective mental healthcare system in Pakistan, there is a disparity in the services offered to the people, resulting in enormous treatment gaps that have left more than 90% of individuals with common mental illnesses untreated. (Sikander, 2020)

Research in the field of mental health in Pakistan is scarce, despite the alarming increase in the number of people experiencing mental health problems. Since research is not a popular incentive among local mental health professionals in Pakistan, there are not many epidemiological studies about mental health issues at the national level in Pakistan. (Javed et al., 2020)

Many socioeconomic factors contribute to the deteriorating mental health scenario in Pakistan, which include stigma associated with mental health issues, a lack of awareness, poverty, and unemployment. The social unacceptance of individuals suffering from mental illnesses leads to various forms of perceived, public, and professional stigma. (Subu et al., 2021)

In a conservative society, poor mental health is considered taboo and is often described as a ‘shortcoming of character’. This is the reason why it is described as an ‘invisible health issue’ because people are afraid to be called lunatics if they reveal that they are encountering some mental health issues.

When it comes to acknowledging mental health issues as a health concern, a significant proportion of the Pakistani population seems to deny it and doesn’t even feel the need to talk about it. (Javed et al., 2020)

Due to a lack of awareness about these issues, many people believe that poor mental health is the outcome of supernatural influences.

In Pakistani culture, faith healing through spiritual healers is the common and traditional way to cure diseases, specifically for people with less education. To find the cure for their mental health issues, people in rural areas of Pakistan, based on their ideological and poor economic conditions, refer to these faith healers. Fake faith healers use various forms of techniques that could prove detrimental to one’s overall physical health.

Pakistan is ranked 34th among 37 low-wage countries. Pakistan is ranked 152 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) by the United Nations Development Programme report of 2019.

Due to less favourable economic and political instability, the unemployment rate is very high, and a large proportion of the country’s population is encountering the hardships associated with poverty, which in turn makes them more prone to facing these mental health issues. Due to these obstacles faced by common people, the prevalence of depression in Pakistan is up to 6%. (Javed et al., 2020)

It is important to highlight adolescent mental health because most mental health issues arise during this period. Sadly, adolescents receive less sympathy from society, and to get rid of the stresses and anxieties they face, they develop drug addiction. As a result, the suicide rates, particularly among young people aged 25 years, are high. (Javed et al., 2020)

As psychotherapies are not easily accessible in Pakistan, the majority of psychiatrists provide counselling services only, and many of them are not qualified either.

To address this issue, a collective effort is required from clinical psychiatrists and psychologists to get training in different psychotherapies.

For the development of effective strategies to combat mental health issues, it is essential to involve young people who have experienced mental health issues in the research process because incorporating their experience will help to accurately understand the challenges faced by people suffering from mental health issues, and that would further facilitate the development of effective strategies to remove stigma related to these issues. (Nature, 2021)

In order to help university students struggling with these mental health issues, several initiatives are being taken by universities across Pakistan, like NUST, COMSATS, and Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU), but it is still not sure to what extent they are successful.

Therefore, it is necessary to develop adequate mental health facilities and adopt beneficial policies to address mental health issues at both the federal and provincial levels. On World Health Day 2023, the government of Pakistan took a digital initiative for the mental well-being of people and announced the launch of the first mental health assistance app known as ‘Humraaz‘. (Saleem, 2023)

In the future, it is expected that the current mental health situation in Pakistan will improve. For that purpose, a combined effort is demanded from both the government and the public to raise awareness about mental health issues and take practical measures to remove the stigma associated with them. Only then can we improve the living conditions of our people suffering from mental health issues.