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October 11, 2018

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In a changing world

In a changing world

There are many facets of life which remain hidden in Pakistan. One of these is the pressing question of mental health and how our population is coping with it. Statistics from Pakistan Association of Mental Health suggest that one in every four Pakistanis may be suffering a mental disorder. The most common among these is depression. The lack of awareness and the severe shortage of mental health professionals in the country add to the problem. This year’s World Mental Health Day – observed yesterday on October 10 – decided to have ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world’ as its theme. In a society like ours, where 30 percent of the population is aged between 15 and 29 years, the theme is an especially significant one. The accounts that we have suggest that a very large number of young people suffer severe depression, in some extreme cases leading to suicides or attempted suicides. The precise number is unfortunately unknown given the stigma attached to the act.

There is, however, sufficient evidence available to try and analyze why so many young people at the peak of their lives suffer depression. Social and economic conditions are no doubt a major factor, with many struggling to find employment opportunities. In addition, as times change there is tension within families – with younger people attempting to break away from traditional practices and control over their lives by elders. This may be especially true for girls. But even in affluent households severe academic pressure exerted by parents has tragically led young people to take their own lives. We need to develop within society a better understanding of the issues that impact the lives of young people in this age of globalisation, and create awareness about the risks of depression, self-harm and suicide. It is only when we understand the problem better that we will be able to solve it. Currently, too little attention is paid to the issue, as a result of which tens of thousands of people suffer in silence. The barrier of silence needs to be broken by discussing mental health more openly and encouraging young people to express their thoughts and opinions. This could be the start of an effort to combat the high rate of depression among young people and to bring mental health onto the centre stage in a society where so many suffer from it in various forms.

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