Maryum Nadeem (University of Sahiwal)
Generally Mental Health is considered as a tendency of human being to cope with different sociological, psychological but not limited to emotional productivities and development of mind while having no negative effect on body and surroundings. It includes every state of mind like working productively, fruitfully, dealing everyday stress, enjoying life, attaining self actualization and maintaining equilibrium between life activities and efforts for achieving psychological resilience.
Many people have tendency to maintain Mental Health but some fail to do so due to many societal, psychological or cultural factors and unknowingly fall under serious Mental Disorders which then become another big challenge for them due to lack of awareness about distressing states of Mental Illness.
Each society has its own distinct parameters to measure and conclude something likewise Pakistani Society has different parameters about perception of Mental Health among people. Pakistani Society has unenlightenment about the concept of Mental Health, they even lack in vocabulary to describe any psychological or emotional experiences and similarly does not concentrate on their absolute negative effects and causes of illness but focus on rational thinking like superstitions and God’s will etc.
Perception about something on such a large population does not come under a day. It need consistent thoughts, observations and sampling of distinct behaviors from population. And in a country like Pakistan where multiplex beliefs are working it is very hard to come on one point conclusion.
Starting from the very first issue, Pakistan is suffering from many societal issues like nepotism, illiteracy, over population, unemployment etc, people have very limited time to sort out their daily issues and to work to eat meal for even once a day. About 24.3 % population is under poverty line according to NAS (34th session, 2016) which calculates about 55.5 million people. In such class, awareness of mental health is nearly equal to zero. They are quite busy in the siren sounds of their life that they even cannot send their generation in school to become literate and play active part in the development of their own status and hence laid foundation to another social adversity of child labor.
Under such conditions firstly they need some time to think about factors relating to their health either mental or physical secondly, they need source and awareness to even think that there is such a concept about Mental Health and its maintenance.
Generally talking about the understanding of what really mental health is? In Pakistan, we discover that in a country with about approximately 62.3 % literacy rate only maximum 20 % can have proficient knowledge about Mental Health. Rest of them are all the thoughts that they gather by their own experiences, listening to elders, or beliefs promoting from their ancestors. If a person prevails some kind of Mental illness i.e., delusions, he/she is considered to be under influence of some supernatural force , necromantic or sorcery acts or evil spirits in wholly superstitious society.
Even sometimes Mental Illness is considered as testing by God in so called purely religious state. These kinds of irrational thoughts only prevail in a society due to high level of ignorance. And under such influences people seek to religious practitioners, faith and religious healers for treatment of such superstitious states. No doubt they are considered to be true at some extent that from total of 10%, rarely 2% people are under influence of such spirits but along with religious treatment they also need some medical assistance like other 8% cases.
Another major factor leading to the misperception about mental health is that people in Pakistani society do not have proper words in their dictionary to name their feelings or states. Either they called their serious mental illness as some sort of physical illness such as fatigue, restlessness and over work etc., or pay no attention to such states. Its biggest example is that most of the time people misinterpret feeling or having stress with clinical depression.
Stress is caused by mixture of fear anxiety and over thinking while its most severe form is clinical depression. And due to lack of awareness they started over thinking about their routine stress with having severe depression and finally ends with suicidal acts seldom. Major mental disorders in Pakistan are Depression 6%, Schizophrenia 1.5% and Epilepsy 1-2% (Ansari, 2015-2022), but unfortunately majority of people is only literate about depression to some extent only.
Most of the time perception of mental health lacks behind due to some other factors such as defaming of family if one member is considered a mentally unfit, or it became a matter of Izzat-O-Namoos for family especially under female mental illness cases. Due to these rising social taboos no one pays attention towards precise perception of mental health.
Despite of all these issues and misperceptions there is also ratio of classes in society which pay high attention towards the perception and awareness of mental health. They include NGO’s, Governmental Institutions working for awareness of Mental Health and other social organizations working at domestic level. Most of the renewed artists of the country, Column writers, T.V anchors, Social leaders and luxury class also help in promoting mental awareness among ignorant areas.
Quoting back to the Renaissance, Shakespeare said that “Nothing can come of nothing” While making discourse analysis of this phrase it can be assumed that if we continue to live in this nothing world which has no concerns about seeking new knowledge and exploring hidden worlds then nothing fruitful will come out for this society, but only the condition will get worsen and some day Pakistan will break its record of being the one amongst the most happiest nations in the world and will be considered as the land of mentally unfit people.
Pakistani society is diverse, one can easily change their set of beliefs by presenting some new ideologies, and this diversity can be used to change the perception about Mental Health to bring the best out worst!