Karachi, Pakistan, October 11, 2010: Aga Khan University organised a seminar to commemorate World Mental Health Day on October 11, 2010, choosing the theme ‘Burden of Care in Mental Illness’. Pivotal issues such as the stigma attached to mental illness, supporting and taking care of the mentally challenged, and the stress of doing so in the Pakistani context were the main focus of the two-hour evening session.
Addressing the audience, Dr Murad Moosa Khan, Consultant Psychiatrist and Chair, Department of Psychiatry at AKU highlighted the negligible number of facilities present in Pakistan for long-term rehabilitation of psychiatric patients. He also shed light on how families undergo severe stress in taking care of family members who are mentally compromised, emphasising the role that both government and the private sector should play in supporting such families who have to bear both the direct and indirect cost of the illness. Dr Haider A. Naqvi, Consultant Psychiatrist at AKU, highlighted the stigma attached to mental illness in the country in particular and the world in general; resting the charge on the way mental illness is portrayed in the media. He maintained that media in Pakistan is marred by ignorance and myths that lead to this negative depiction. “It becomes pivotal to increase awareness about mental illness in society and treat the suffering with dignity and respect, which will in turn encourage them come forward and seek help,” he said.
Dr Naila Bhutto, Consultant Psychiatric, AKU, also spoke on the occasion, talking about the stress involved in caring for the mentally compromised. She maintained that some psychiatric illnesses require long-term care, which is very stressful for carers, affecting their own personal mental health and in turn the quality of care giving and increasing the chances of patient negligence. She stressed that due to this reason, it is essential to support the caregivers and provide them with strategies to deal with their stress.
Consultant Psychologist Dr Nargis Asad’s lecture on the joy of caring for the mentally ill and Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, AKU, Dr Syed Ahmer’s session on “I don’t want others to know”: an alcoholic in the family’ were also received well.