In many societies, as in our own, people are afraid of being open about having mental health issues. Because of this they hardly ever seek treatment. The reason is simple. Even today, people with mental health issues in Pakistan undergo discrimination and stigmatization. Furthermore, the subject of mental health has not been further studied despite the lack of awareness and misconceptions about it. However, removing the mental health stigma poses considerable importance in Pakistan.
Role of the Law
The Mental Health Ordinance, passed in 2001, has shown rapid improvements in treating mental illnesses. However, the former Lunacy Act, passed in 1912, tells a different story. This act, as the name suggests, played a huge role in defining mental patients as “criminal lunatics” or “idiots”. Instead of providing adequate treatment, the law stated no rules of doctor-patient confidentiality. Additionally, they excluded informing patients of the nature of their illness, treatments, effects and risks that came with it. Therefore, mental health patients remain dangerous and unpredictable in people’s minds to this day. Furthermore, asylums seem to be the only solution for such people due to not fitting in with regular people.
Lack of Knowledge Regarding Proper Treatment
Rather than turning to scientific cures, the general masses of Pakistan believe in spiritual healing. Each household has a set of family remedies. They would turn to these rather than consulting professional doctor first. Apart from that, reciting verses from the Quran seems to be the only cure. Granted, it probably is the best cure for those who believe in its effects. However, it is certainly not the only cure. Religious rituals, when combined with scientific knowledge, can help us far more than our minds allow us to. Therefore, it is important to first understand the nature of the problem before coming to conclusions. It is equally important to trust professionals with their jobs. They have practice and are there to help.
Deeming Mental Patients Unfit for Normal Tasks
Children with mental problems find it easier to adjust in special schools or institutions. However, discrimination bounds these children since childhood in our society. They are deemed unfit to handle tasks easily taken on by regular people. Pity replaces help, until it strengthens into false beliefs. Therefore, they are often deprived of equal opportunities as people their own age. Hence, they are excluded from the race before they even attempt to run. On the contrary, mental patients may lack in some areas, but are known to excel in others. For instance, autism is different for every individual. Autistic people may have difficulties believing something other than what they know to be true. However, their mathematical minds as well as memory is often sharper than a normal individual’s. If their weaknesses are turned into strengths, they may be able to achieve much more than we give them credit for.
Degrading Psychology as a Field of Study
A major problem with the Pakistani mindset is the age old ‘doctor/engineer’ rant that seems to believe that these are the only respectable professions one should opt for. The realization that other fields of study may just be as good as medicine may allow more people to study other important subjects in the hopes of making careers out of them. Psychology is probably the most closely linked social science to biology and human anatomy, especially the brain. Even though a lot of medicine is involved in it, people still don’t consider psychologists to be as helpful as doctors. This is because matters of the mind are always rendered less important than matters of the body, even though the opposite is usually true.
Not Trusting Therapy as Effective Treatment
The word “therapy” is probably the first word that sends chills all over patients and those associated with them. People do not understand the point of the psychologist since they believe that talking about it isn’t the answer, medication is. The common argument is that the patient can easily talk to a close family relative rather than talking to a stranger and paying them to listen. However, bias or personal attachments to the patients does not bound these professionals. Due to this, they give honest sincere advice and help. They are equipped with the right methods and strategies on how to deal with such patients, unlike those who do not know what it is that the patients need to say or hear.
All in all, there are certain ways to go about if mental health is not to be stigmatized. Not only is it important to understand the scientific causes and effects of mental illnesses but also how they impact a person on the spiritual level. Treating mental health problems often heals various physical illnesses as well, since the two are very much interlinked. Therefore, it is time that people stopped discriminating and started thinking.