On November 18th, 2022, a delegation from Pakistan Institute of Living and Learning (PILL) and University of Manchester met with Dr. Azra Fazal Pehchuho, Sindh Minister for Health and Population Welfare, and Dr. Juman Bahoto, Director General, Health Department, Government of Sindh. There was constructive discussion on the Mental Health Policy and Implementation Plan, along with essential strategies to improve access to mental health care in Pakistan.
Most serious complication of mental health difficulties is death by suicide. Globally every 40 second one person dies by suicide and marked as a 4th leading cause of death among adolescents. Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide with 80% disease burden in low and middle-income countries (LMIC). Pakistan has one of the highest rates of depression including postnatal depression and little access to treatment. Trauma and adverse childhood experiences have a strong association with mental health difficulties. Climate change is having a major impact on Pakistan and called as “Invisible injustice”. Recently around 33 million people, including approximately 16 million children, have been affected by this year’s heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan. This has led to a critical mental health crisis.
Responding to this massive mental health challenge. Dr. Azra Pehchuho, health minister province of Sindh has taken the initiative to establish “Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT-PK), initially in the two districts of Sindh Dadu and Qambar Shahdadkot.
Pakistan is one of the youngest countries in the world i.e. 64 percent is below the age of 30. Professor Husain said, “The youth is our future, and it is incredibly important that we employ resources to prevent lifelong disabilities. He also mentioned potential support from Mersey Care NHS Foundation trust to improve outcomes in young people. Including, trainings in self-harm prevention. He talked about a school based suicide prevention program (SEPAK) which has recently been piloted in Pakistan will play an instrumental role in spreading awareness and improving Mental health amongst young students in educational institutions.
To strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. Professor Husain highlighted the extensive research network which PILL has established in collaboration with University of Manchester and discussed projects being developed with key collaborators across the UK, Canada, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, India, Kenya and Nigeria and shared the message from Prof. Nigel Hooper, Associate Vice-President for Research at University of Manchester, who is pleased to extend his support particularly in multimorbidity and digital mental health research