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Asad Umar spearheads major mental health initiative in Pakistan’s history

Planning Ministry under the leadership of Asad Umar launches Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) unit that will coordinate efforts to support growing psychological issues amid the pandemic.

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The Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives launched on Sunday the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) unit as a part of its emergency response to COVID-19.

According to a press release issued by the ministry, the initiative is funded by United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Pakistan.

The aim of this initiative is to develop an evidence-driven MHPSS model which is right-based, scalable and sustainable.

The project is also aimed at raising public awareness for psychosocial well-being of at-risk population and address stigma and discrimination of infected populations.

Read more: Why mental health is an ignored phenomenon in Pakistan

It would also help to identify and manage stress-related conditions in frontline responders, and integrate mental health and psychosocial support in response activities.

The project would also provide psychosocial support to the most vulnerable population groups including women and children at risk, bereaved families, and people with disabilities besides providing mental healthcare for those suffering from mental disorders.

A Mental Health Co-ordination Unit has been set up at the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives to implement a pilot project in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) to develop a mental health force that will be trained to provide mental health and psychosocial support through inter-sectoral collaboration.

Pakistan falls under the category of a developing country. Owing to its allocation, it is host to many psychological problems, that may be due to serious internal and external factors like political upheavals, social boycotting, economic vulnerability, job saturation, cultural and ethnic influence, and gender inequality.

Read more: Mental health is one of the biggest pandemic consequences we’ll face in 2021

These issues have stimulated more health glitches during the crucial time of pandemic when more people are vulnerable to joblessness, poor healthcare facilities, and increased psychological distress.

Mental health facilities

Pakistan’s increasing economic burdens on mental illnesses have been given very low priority. The budget of Pakistan allocates less than 1% to public health and there is no separate budget for mental health. According to the World Health Organization-Assessment instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO_AIMS) in 2009, only 0.4% of the health spending is allocated to mental health.

Read more: Reforms needed to destigmatize mental illness in Pakistan

The mental health facilities are 3729 and there are only 5 mental hospitals, which have 5056 beds and a total of 342 psychiatrists. There have been no specific policy amendments made since 2009 and the mental illness burden has continued to rise in all age groups.

APP with additional input by GVS News Desk