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The writer is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist.
Mikaeel Ali Asks:
Has Stigma Reduced Around Mental Health Issues In Pakistan?
With technology enveloping our lives from the outside in, we are now more connected than ever. This connection has also initiated an exchange of thoughts and ideas. Mental Health is also one of those topics that have come to the surface as people worldwide have gathered to discuss the issues they face in their everyday lives.
However, even though Pakistan is much more aware of the importance of health, it is still not an ordinary topic. The reason for this is two-fold: first is that not many avenues exist if one wishes to work on their mental health in the country, and the second is the fact that society, as a whole, is still wary of this topic. In many regions of Pakistan, we find unusual symptoms ascribed to some supernatural activity. Moreover, due to a lack of sensitivity, words like “crazy”, “abnormal”, and “mad” are also thrown around relatively quickly. Keeping all this in mind, it is safe to say that there still remains an unhealthy amount of stigma around mental health.
For those with access to education and financial strength, the facility of mental health clinics is abundant. But it’s important to understand that we will not be able to remove the stigma around this subject until it is a topic and facility accessible to all. The bottom line is that awareness is absolutely crucial in this campaign. Moreover, mental health is not only reserved for people going through a difficult time. Frequently, our societal standards can burden individuals not suited to them. These little things contribute a great deal to the decline in mental health. It is a condition that must be understood before it is addressed. Certain gender-specific issues are quite prevalent in Pakistan. They can contribute significantly to mental health deterioration for those dealing with them.
Women commonly suffer more from mental health problems than men, as they face gender-specific issues like societal stigmas, gender biases, and social, physical, and emotional violence/abuse. The high violence or abuse rate has adversely affected women’s mental peace. However, most of these women are unwilling to seek professional help because of the way that Pakistani society is set up. It does not even seem like a natural step in their lives.
Likewise, men also face gender-based stigma but in a different way. For instance, they are usually told to “man up!” or “men don’t cry”, which means they are restricted from showing natural emotional responses to humanely traumatizing situations. Hence, this builds toxic or traditional masculinity that further encourages or develops a stagnant emotional predisposition in men. This robs them of the faculty to express their emotions in a healthy manner.
Next, school-going kids and university students have a unique set of problems that they come up against. Many times, it isn’t even understood that they need assistance. We must actively work to remedy this situation. If you have the faculty to do so, contribute to this by spreading the word the best you can. Perhaps there is someone out there whose life would be different after your message reaches them.