KARACHI: International and national experts on the eve of World Mental Health Day 2020 urged governments of developing countries to invest more in mental health as people have started facing the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health and now new types of psychiatric illnesses are being observed all over the world including Pakistan.
Around 25 to 30 per cent of the world’s population is suffering from one or her other types of mental ailments, and their incidence is constantly on the rise due to effects of COVID-19, national and international mental health experts said while speaking at an international conference at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC).
The conference was organized by the Pakistan Psychiatric Association (PPA) and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) Karachi Najmuddin Auditorium.
The event was addressed by the President-elect of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), Prof Dr Afzal Javed, Eminent Psychiatrist, Prof Haroon Ahmed, President, PPA, Prof Iqbal Afridi, British Pakistani Psychiatrist Association (BPPA) Chairman, Dr Qaiser Abbass Zaidi, Ex-Cricketer, Younus Khan, Dr Unaiza Niaz, Prof Lindsay Thompson from the University of Edinburg, and several other national and international mental health experts.
On occasion, PPA President, Prof Iqbal Afridi, announced that they were starting the Prof Haroon Ahmed Research Award in psychiatry. Every year, one top researcher of Pakistan would be awarded the Prof Haroon Ahmed Research Award and an Rs150,000 cash prize. The PPA would contribute Rs1 million for the award while Prof Haroon Ahmed also announced contributing Rs1 million for the award.
Speaking as the chief guest, Prof Haroon Ahmed said that COVID-19 has started affecting people’s mental health all over the world and in Pakistan people. A newer type of depression and symptoms of PTSD are approaching psychiatrists for treatment.
“People are complaining of symptoms like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to COVID-19 related stress and experiences. A newer type of depression, which is not clinical depression, is also being observed where people feel lonely and experience a lack of interest in daily life. These issues have a close relation to COVID-19 and its impacts on the daily life of people,” he said.
Prof Haroon Ahmed maintained that it is heartening to note that people are breaking the taboos and publically admitting that they are under treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders, saying that 70 per cent of the cases of depression are due to biochemical imbalance in the brain, which is not the fault of the patient.
President-elect of WPA, Prof Afzal Javed, claimed that the prevalence of mental health issues is not less than cancer or cardiac ailments globally. It is estimated that now 25 to 30 per cent of the world’s population is suffering from one or other kinds of mental illness, adding that it is right time that more resources are allocated for the mental wellbeing, treatment, and cure in countries like Pakistan.
Congratulating the PPA and the JPMC’s Department of Psychiatry for the successful event, Prof Afzal Javed claimed that several countries of the world had started observing COVID-19 mental health issues, especially those facing continuing conflicts and economic crisis like Pakistan, and said it is the right time that mental health institutes and this vital area of medical sciences are provided with ample resources to deal with the upcoming pandemic of mental health issues.
PPA President and Dean JPMC, Prof Iqbal Afridi, said it is time that people also start investing in their mental health, which means that they start exercising to prevent themselves from obesity, stop using drugs, and reduce their use of mobile phones and computers to stay mentally healthy.
He said coronavirus anxiety and phobia and touch-deprivation phenomenon were some of the few pandemic-related mental issues that were affecting the lives of people and called for creating awareness about mental health issues among common people.
Ex-test cricketer Younus Khan spoke about the importance of having good mental health in athletes as it helps critical decision making.