A crisis at hand | Political economics

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Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, according to the eminent psychiatrist Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal Afridi.

The psychiatrist calls for the establishment of rehabilitation centers, especially for mental illnesses, throughout Karachi. “Even though mental illnesses are widespread in Pakistan, efforts to rehabilitate the sick have hardly ever been made,” he says.

Professor Afridi believes that human beings have meaning and purpose in their lives and a positive view of the external environment so that they achieve a sense of self-satisfaction.

According to the definition of the World Federation of Mental Health and the World Health Organization, mental health is described as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his own abilities and can cope with the normal stress of life. life, he said. “Good mental health is the ability to function in adversity,” adds the doctor.

Going further, Professor Afridi asserts that dignity is strongly linked to an individual’s respect, recognition, self-esteem and ability to make choices. “The shame associated with mental illnesses has led millions of people to suffer in silence, consequently aggravating the factors from which the illness developed in the first place. This has proven to be the greatest obstacle to the recovery of mental illnesses.

It also urges authorities to launch community mental health programs and effectively use telemedicine to make treatment easily accessible in rural areas.

The chairman of Karwan-i-Hayat (a non-profit, non-governmental organization), Saleem Uddin Ahmed, also endorses the idea that people with mental illnesses have the ability to be part of society if they receive treatment. quality in a timely manner.

About 13,000 to 15,000 people in Pakistan end their lives each year, while the number of attempts remains even higher, as nearly 200,000 people attempt to end their lives annually in the country, according to Dr. Murad Moosa Khan, professor of psychiatry.

Professor Afridi asserts that dignity is closely linked to an individual’s respect, recognition, self-esteem and ability to make choices. “The shame associated with mental illnesses has led millions of people to suffer in silence, consequently aggravating the factors from which the illness developed in the first place. This has proven to be the greatest obstacle to the recovery of mental illnesses.

Quoting French philosopher Albert Camus, Dr Khan, who has conducted extensive research on suicide in Pakistan, says that “suicide is a fundamental question of philosophy”. The doctor raises dignity issues associated with mental health and says 35-40% of Pakistanis live in a state of compromised mental well-being. Some existentialist thinkers and philosophers even glorify suicide.

According to Dr Khan, improving mental health will remain a distant hope until people are treated with dignity, receive an education and are lifted out of poverty.

“Human dignity is the most important part of human rights,” he observes, but laments that with the exception of Aga Khan University Hospital and Dow Health Sciences University , no medical university has organized examinations in the field of psychiatry.

“The biggest problem is corruption,” he says, adding that even doctors are bribed by multinational corporations to send them abroad in exchange for their prescription drugs.

Through transfer pricing, giant multinational pharmaceutical companies transfer millions of dollars from the precarious foreign exchange reserves in Pakistan as elsewhere in Third World countries. They buy cheap raw materials and resell them under different labels.

Moreover, they pay bribes to pharmacies who suggest to patients that very expensive drugs made by multinational pharmaceutical companies are better than those made by local companies.

“Mental health should not be seen in isolation,” adds Dr. Khan. He believes that it should be integrated into the category of primary health care. “The moral values ​​of a society are measured by the way it treats vulnerable people,” explains the psychiatrist.

In an exclusive interview with this scribe, Brig Dr Shoaib Ahmed, executive director and head of the department of psychiatry at Dow University of Health Sciences, says there are 2,070 beds in government mental hospitals, including 1,400 in Lahore, 450 in Hyderabad, 120 in Peshawar and 100 in Dhodial (Mansehra).

The private sector inpatient psychiatric facility in Karachi has 612 beds and the psychiatric units of the teaching hospitals 870, he says.


The writer is a journalist and peace activist. He writes on health, heritage and environmental issues. He can be reached at [email protected]


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