ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday suggested that a committee might be constituted by the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination on mental health to provide counselling and services to those people who were facing mental health issues or disorders.
The committee comprising members from the public and private stakeholders might brainstorm different ideas, benchmark local and international best practices and come up with a comprehensive plan, the president further suggested.
The president expressed these views while chairing a meeting on mental health, at Aiwan-e-Sadr.
Addressing the meeting, the president said that Pakistan had limited resources to cope with the burden of mental health as an estimated 80% of people with mental health needs remain untreated.
He stressed that there was a need to increase the pool of psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors on a top priority basis to ensure the reach of mental health services to the targeted population, especially to the unprivileged persons in underserved areas of the country.
He further observed that ensuring good mental health and resolving the mental health issues of the people of Pakistan at the early stages would help increase the productivity of the nation.
The meeting was attended by members of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), World Health Organization (WHO), Pakistan Psychiatric Society (PPS), Taskeen Health Initiative, officials of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, and other organizations working on the issue of mental health and well-being.
The president underlined the need to develop and create mental health providers, especially at the primary level for the early diagnoses and treatment to arrest the illness at the initial stages which most of the time required active listening and counselling and stopping it from reaching an advanced level which required expensive curative treatment.
He said that in this regard, all available training resources within the private and public sectors of the country and online training facilities available internationally should be fully exploited to create a critical mass of mental health providers as fast as possible.
The president said that web-based applications, including chatbots and other IT-based applications, might also be fully incorporated into the system to provide the first line of help to persons suffering from mental issues.
He further said that 45 to 50% of people, who were suffering from mental health issues, could be treated by providing them immediate services.
The president said that there was a need to integrate all the existing mental health helpline services into a national mental health system to provide quality, authentic and credible services to people facing mental health issues.
He said that the elements of trust, confidentiality, authenticity and credibility of the services must be taken into account while establishing a mental health helpline.
The president said there was a need to create synergy among the stakeholders and to determine the mental health burden, take stock of all the resources, both online and web-based, total human resources available and how to increase human resources commensurate to the needs of the people.
He said that technical knowledge base and professional help may also be obtained from the World Health Organization and other international health organizations in this regard.
He urged all the stakeholders to follow a definite timeline for firming up their recommendations, formation of committees and identifying the stakeholders and looping them into the system.
The president said that steps may be taken to include child abuse, drug use and behavioural and mental disorders in the overall system of mental health through maintaining high quality and upholding ethical standards and protocols.
Earlier, the Ministry of Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Taskeen Health Initiative and Omang Pakistan in their separate presentations discussed mental health education, shared their views on mental health services delivery and the need for forging purpose-based integrated collaborations among all stakeholders for the provision of mental health facilities at the grassroots levels.