‘Wave of mass psychosis has gripped Pakistan’

M. Waqar Bhatti
Sunday, May 14, 2023

RAWALPINDI: An epidemic of mental health issues has gripped Pakistan because of socio-economic conditions like rising inflation, unemployment and years of insecurity as well poor eating habits and unhealthy lifestyle, psychiatrists and public health experts said on Friday and called for de-stigmatising mental health in Pakistan.

“The way everyone thinks of themselves and others as inefficient, unproductive and corrupt, it appears that a wave of ‘mass psychosis’ has gripped Pakistani nation. When we keep on perceiving everything negatively for some time, we can become highly demoralised. After being labelled as incompetent, corrupt and dishonest group of people internally and abroad, this condition is called mass psychosis syndrome”, said Prof. Shahzad Ali Khan, Vice Chancellor Health Services Academy (HSA), Islamabad told a moot of psychiatrists.

Hundreds of psychiatrists and psychologists attended the 3rd National Conference on Social Psychiatry, which was organised by Pakistan Association of Social Psychiatry (PASP) in association with Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Watim Medical and Dental College Rawalpindi, Pakistan Medical Association, Pakistan Psychological Association and other organizations.

Speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural ceremony of the psychiatric moot, Prof. Shahzad Ali Khan maintained that the entire nation has been forced to believe that they are the most corrupt, incompetent and useless people, this mass psychosis is bound to happen. “Initially, Pakistani professionals were defamed and now everyone considers itself as useless, demotivated and incompetent”, Prof. Khan observed.

He maintained that mob justice and vigilantism is on the rise in Pakistani society which is the result of mass psychosis that has gripped the nation and recent events of vandalism and lynchings are some of its manifestations.

“We need to start working on community and social psychiatry. The best would be to start working on infant mental health so the best mental health of children and youth can be developed. The earliest we intervene the better outcomes we shall reap in future”, he added.

Referring to the stigma attached to the mental illnesses in the society, Prof. Shahzad said although there was a stigma attached to some of the ailments including Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS as well as mental health issues but on the same time, people proudly announce if they have cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes because these diseases are considered as ‘ailments of elite class’.

“But when it comes to the mental health, every country is a developing country. So we can encourage people to come forward and seek medical help for the mental health issues as mental health issues are more common in the elite segment of the society”, he said and called for raising awareness regarding mental health issues training of General Practitioners (GPs) for the identification of mental health issues and referring such patients to the trained and qualified psychiatrists.

President of the Pakistan Association of Social Psychiatrists (PASP) Prof. Mazhar Malik said around 20 percent Pakistani population is suffering from anxiety while around 15 percent people have depression, saying if not treated, both the mental health ailments can eventually lead to physical health issues, social and economic problems.

“Social problems like discrimination and labelling, negative experiences in the childhood, domestic violence, drug abuse as well as economic issues are resulting in social psychiatric illness in our society. Majority of our youth, who are highly qualified are unemployed, which is a big cause concern for them and resulting in mental health issues”, Prof. Mazhar Malik maintained.

He maintained that Pakistan society was facing serious social crisis due to rising inflation, unemployment, insecurity and destruction of social fabric of the society and added that anxiety was the number 1 mental health issue in Pakistan.

Another renowned psychiatrist and Principal of the Hamdard College of Medicine and Dentistry Prof. Razaur Rehman delivered a key-note address on anxiety and depression in Pakistan, saying anxiety is a situation where a person is afraid of threats in the future while in depression, the person speaks of the events in the past.

Several other experts including Prof. Dr. Mohammad Ahmed, Prof. Mohtada Hassan, Prof. Abdur Rasheed Mian, Dr. Akhtar Ali Bandesha, Dr. Anwar-ul-Haq and other spoke while dozens of scientific papers on psychiatric illnesses including suicide, drug abuse, mood disorders and other were present at the moot.