In Pakistan, approximately 50 million people suffer from common mental disorders and unfortunately there are only 400 trained psychologists in the country, meaning that there is roughly one psychologist available per half a million people. Pakistan has one of the lowest mental illness patient-to-doctor ratios in the world. Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions that affect mood, thinking and behaviour. Psychologists in Pakistan believe that the majority of the population is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and that there is not much being done to help them. It is also believed that being a patriarchal society, it is rare that men in Pakistan admit their depression because it will indirectly mean that they failed to cope with their responsibilities. With terrorist attacks, absence of social security, poverty, illness, poor health standards, injustices, illiteracy and economic tumours, people have become very rigid, inflexible in their thinking, and are under constant stress. People are unable to rationally analyse the situation and are becoming angrier.
The situation is especially worrying for mental health advocates because suicide rates have surged in Pakistan in the recent years, from a few hundred in the pre-1990s to almost 7,000 last year. And this is probably an underestimated figure given the legal, socio-cultural and religious sanctions against suicide in Pakistan. Data from population-based studies indicate that a third of Pakistan’s population has anxiety and depression. It is the responsibility of the provincial government to provide funds and of the mental health professionals, especially psychologists, to provide leadership. On an individual level, some changes in lifestyle can significantly help. People should avoid conflicts in personal as well as professional life, try to participate in social activities and get together with family or friends regularly. Moreover, stigma and shame must be uprooted from our communities. The therapy itself involves emotional suffering, vulnerability, anxiety and sadness. The least we can do is to allow for mentally ill patients to seek adequate support.
The increasing rate of suicide in Pakistan calls for the immediate attention of the concerned authorities. Domestic and financial problems are the leading reasons that compel a person to commit suicide. The country’s economic condition is weak. Small-scale industries died a long time ago because of the energy crisis in the country. This has saturated the job market. There are simply not enough jobs to accommodate the growing number of the unemployed.
The majority of the people are living in extreme poverty. Their meagre income is not enough to feed their family. Under such circumstances, people decide to commit suicide to end their sufferings. The government needs to curb the growing rate of suicide by addressing the abovementioned issues.