KARACHI: “One-third of the problems presented by the patients to the doctors are directly or indirectly related to stress and anxiety,” said Family Medicine experts at an awareness session at the Jinnah Sindh Medical University (JSMU).
The event was organized by the JSMU’s Institute of Family Medicine and Continued Medical Education Department to underscore the role of Family Medicine practitioners in managing mental health issues.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lubna Ansari-Baig, said that the rising rates of suicide in Pakistan painted an alarming picture of the current state of mental health in our society. She said that globally, one person commits suicide every 40 seconds, and for each adult who kills himself, an estimated 20 others are attempting suicide at the same time.
In Pakistan too, she said, 5500 people killed themselves in 2016, whereas this figure was even higher in 2012 when 13,000 people were lost to suicide. This situation demands that all healthcare providers must be attentive towards the signs pointing to mental health issues in their patients, she added.
Speaking on the state of mental health in Pakistan, Dr Tabinda Ashfaq, Associate Professor, Family Medicine at JSMU, said that the number of psychiatrists in Pakistan is limited as opposed to the rising incidence of mental health issues in the country.
She said that family physicians are the first point of contact for the majority of the patients and are managing mental health diseases more frequently because of being accessible to patients.
Dr Fauzia Akhtar, Assistant Professor, Family Medicine, JSMU, said that it is crucial for people to know the symptoms and also to know when and where to seek help. Describing the symptoms, she said that stress could manifest as headache, anxiety, muscle pain, lack of motivation, upset stomach, sadness, drug or alcohol abuse, fatigue, restlessness, feeling overwhelmed, and sleep problems.
Dr Badar Sabir Ali, Consultant, Family Medicine, and Psychotherapist, outlined the importance of practicing mindfulness, which can increase the ability to relax, produce a greater enthusiasm for life and improve self-esteem.
Prof Riaz Qureshi of the Aga Khan University said that stress could worsen common health problems like headaches, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart issues, skin problems, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. He explained the technique of hypnotherapy as one of the tools used by doctors for reducing stress and anxiety among patients and taught self-relaxation techniques to the audience.
Vice-Chancellor, JSMU, Prof S M Tariq Rafi, pointed out that the rising incidence of mental health cases and their impact on other conditions are compounding the healthcare sector’s challenges. The Head of the JSMU Institute of Family Medicine, Professor Marie Andrades, pushed for the adoption of a holistic approach towards the wellbeing of individuals for achieving health for large populations.
She quoted WHO data, which shows that Pakistan has only 0.19 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people, among the lowest in the world.
The In-charge of the Continuing Medical Education Department at the JSMU, Dr Rahat Naz, explained that the World Mental Health Day is being observed in 150 countries since 1992 initiated by the World Federation for Mental Health to draw attention towards mental health issues.