People displaced by floods prone to mental illnesses
The natural calamities in the form of recent torrential monsoon rains and then flash floods which wreaked havoc with our country, has not only caused material losses but also the loss in terms of loss of human lives and the impact on their minds and overall health is unprecedented. A latest newspaper report shows that there is an alarming rise in cases of suicide and attempted suicides due to depression and mental illnesses.
The victims are mostly from working flood affected areas and also from the lower and working class strata including the daily wage labourers and low income people, who were badly affected by displaced due to floods and increasing inflation and price hike of essentials. There is no denying that life has become tough for Pakistanis in the post-floods situation as almost one third of the country is still under water. The job opportunities have further shrunk while price hike and inflation are on the rise.
Moreover due to damage of job facilities in floods, a huge number of people have lost their jobs and are faced with the dilemma of low incomes and higher cost of life due to which they are unable to make both ends meet. Millions are living under the open sky with no toilet and little to no food. The miseries due to displacement have caused uptick in mental illnesses which is also a big factor for the suicide deaths and the fact that an estimated 35pc of our population suffer from some kind of mental illness and require psychological help is suffice to show the gravity of the situation in our society.
Though mental illnesses have always been a main factor for suicide and attempted suicide in the country, but the natural calamities in the of floods and the economic pressures in the country in the post pandemic situation have further exacerbated the long existing health issue that has silently been killing a huge number of Pakistanis for decades. According Pakistan Association for Mental Health, depression which is one form of mental illness and which is the one of the main causes of suicide is more prevalent in low and middle income people of the society.
As per PAMH information, around 13,000 suicide death are reported every year in the country, and out of them 95pc suffer from depression and other mental ailments. Social traditions and questionable cultural norms like forced-marriages, child marriages and domestic violence are also the leading causes of mental disorders due to which the victims commit suicides. KPK’s Chitral is a case in point where the human rights violations is said to be the leading cause of suicide among women in the district.
The last five years statistics show that Chitral district has the highest rate of suicide in the entire country and as many as 48% of the reported suicide cases were the result of stress and other mental illnesses, followed by domestic violence which accounted for 23% of suicides in the district during the last five years. In the far-flung areas, people mostly approach quacks and so-called 'holy men' for treatment of mental disorders due to which their problems are compounded and they never come out of the situation.
Our social set up is such that our family life is disturbed most often than not by strained relations among family members, mostly the couples and their in-laws, unfriendly working environment and strained relations with classmates and co-workers at workplace. Living for long time in such strained environment, it is natural to develop anxiety and depression, which is the leading cause of suicidal deaths. Broken families, bullying friend make persons thing they are inferior and cannot fit in the society due to which they develop depression. It ought to be mentioned with concern that the lack of awareness about mental illness and lack of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists are also among the factors responsible for increasing number of mental patients in the country.
And last but not the least, the stigma attached with mental illness and suicidal deaths are also a factor due to which patients and their families avoid consulting psychologists and pursuing mental health regime at hospitals. To be very specific, persons suffering from some sort of mental illness are one of the most stigmatized sections of our society. The general tendency is that people who seek mental treatment are considered to be "abnormal" and "mentally retarded.
Medical experts fear that if proper attention was not paid to control these disorders, they will become one of the leading causes of mortalities in the country in coming years. What is needed is that the government must take steps to give proper attention to the factors which are responsible for mental illness and secondly mental disorders should be accorded the status of a medical illness and a robust campaign should be run on media to create awareness about the disease to help remove the stigma attached with mental disorders.
According to psychologists it is due to stigmatizing of the mental illness due to which we a saw an increase in mental disorders like anxiety, depression, puerperal psychosis, mood swings, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder which are taking toll on health of the citizens. The irony is that a large number of health facilities have also been damaged in floods and the people suffering from mental illnesses have little access to treatment.
Published in The Daily National Courier, October, 01 2022