The World Health organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Although mental health is a crucial part of our overall well-being, often, we find that physical health is prioritized and mental health is neglected. Addressing mental health issues is viewed as a luxury and given less importance than physical health issues.
Obstacles to Seeking and Receiving Mental Healthcare
Why isn’t mental healthcare sought as readily? The reality is that individuals experiencing mental health issues face obstacles that may prevent them from seeking and receiving mental healthcare.
As in most societies around the world, mental health carries a social stigma. This stigma lends itself to fear of discrimination and the negative social impacts that individuals may experience if they are labelled as mentally ill. In addition, individuals may be uncomfortable sharing details of their issues and personal lives with a therapist of doctor.
Lack of Awareness
Mental health is not talked about as widely or as often as it should be. Hence, many individuals simply may not know that an issue they may be experiencing has its roots in mental illness or any kind of illness. Instead, they may just accept the issue as a normal part of life that they have no choice but to live with.
Lack of Information
Individuals may be aware of their own or someone else’s mental health issue, however, they may not know where they can receive proper care and treatment and how to find mental health facilities and providers that offer what they need.
Lack of Access and Resources
Mental health care facilities may not exist in certain regions, consequently, individuals may not have access to care. In some cases, they may not have access to the financial resources, transportation, or sufficient time off from work and familial obligations which would allow them to seek proper care and treatment for mental health issue.
While these obstacles are very real for many people, the good news is that many efforts are being made to overcome these obstacles and help individuals reach the care they need.
Current State of Mental Health Care
According to data collected in 2011 by WHO, unlike many other developing and even developed countries, Pakistan has an established mental health policy. Some aspects of this policy focus on include increasing access to mental health care, defining the rights of mental health care patients and their caregivers, administration of treatment, as well as mechanisms for provisions of legislation on mental health.
In addition to this policy, the national mental health authority in Pakistan collaborated with WHO to collect data and compile a report on the mental health system in Pakistan using the World Health Organization – Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS). The report identifies important features of mental health care system as well as areas for improvement.
Pakistan has 3,729 mental health facilities. There are 624 community-based inpatient units and 5 psychiatric hospitals. In the last few years the holding capacity of psychiatric hospitals has grown 4% likely due to the increasing need to serve a growing population. Additionally, 1620 residential mental health facilities exist for patients in need of long-term care and rehabilitation.
Approximately, 99% of these facilities cater to adults. More recently, mobile mental health teams have been created to address the issue of lack of access to mental health. These teams account for 1% of mental health facilities in the nation. To monitor success of treatments, 46% of mental health facilities are in the practice of follow-up with patients after an initial visit.
There is approximately a total of 87 healthcare workers per 100,000 people operating in mental health facilities. For every 100,000 there are 0.20 psychiatrists and 0.28 psychologists as well as 8.13 nurses working in the mental health care system.
There are 187 psychiatrists and 7018 nurses per bed work at community-based inpatient units. At mental hospitals, there are approximately 14 psychiatrists and 43 nurses per bed at mental hospitals.
Out of 347 psychiatrists, 45% work in government administered facilities, 51% work in NGOs or private practice, and the remaining 4% work in both the public and private sector. The vast majority of mental health care workers are found in urban areas.
While there is a shortage of human resources, in the last few years, government agencies including the Ministry of Health and Department of Mental health, NGOs, and private trusts and foundations have introduced campaigns which aim to increase awareness of mental health care amongst the general population. These agencies and organizations have also targeted health care providers to encourage more interest in working mental health field.
Importance of Seeking Treatment
Adverse Effects of Untreated Mental Health Issues
Leaving mental health issues untreated can have several adverse effects on one’s daily life. Mental health issues interfere with an individual’s ability to carry out daily activities at work, home, and in social settings. Unresolved mental health issues may lead to lower educational attainment and financial instability manifesting in lower socioeconomic class. This can lead to further difficulties in accessing health care and treatment for both physical and mental health issues. Finally, early onset mental disorders serve as significant predictors of physical disorders that emerge later in life such as arthritis and heart disease.
Steps to Recovery
If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, rather than wait till the issue becomes more serious, it is important to take the first step to recovery. Find out about mental health services offered in your area and reach out. If you are unsure of where to look, contact health care providers at the general clinic and hospital and they might be able to point you in the right direction as well. Since mental well-being is just as crucial to living a healthy lifestyle as is physical well being, it is essential to find the right care and resolve that which is treatable.
World Health Organization (WHO). (2003). Investing in Mental Health – World Health
Organization. (2003). Retrieved 2018, from http://www.who.int/mental_health/media/investing_mnh.pdf
World Health Organization (WHO). (2009). WHO-AIMS REPORT ON MENTAL HEALTH
SYSTEM IN PAKISTAN. Retrieved 2018, from http://www.who.int/mental_health/pakistan_who_aims_report.pdf