South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London and the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London linked with the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad in order to make mental health services accessible for rural communities and to increase general population awareness of mental health issues.
Pakistan has a young and growing population, which according to the Census Organisation of Pakistan, is 178 million. According to Lahore’s University of Health Sciences Vice-Chancellor Malik Hussain Mubashir, “There is only one psychiatrist for every 10,000 people in Pakistan, one child psychiatrist for four million children estimated to be suffering mental-health issues and only four major psychiatric hospitals and 20 such units attached to teaching hospitals."
Prof. Dr. Rizwan Taj, Head of Psychiatry Department at Pakistan Institute of Medical Science, was already working on mental health issues in Pakistan before he found out about the International Health Links Funding Scheme. Under the support and technical guidance of UK partner, Dr. Rizwan Taj has managed to deliver the link activities. Over 300 Psychiatrists, Lady Health Workers, School & College Teachers and media professionals have received mental health training in the past two years.
Despite the alarming situation of mental illness in Pakistan, there is neither a single academic degree programme in neuroscience nor a world class research and treatment centre on psychiatric disorders in Pakistan. Dr. Rizwan Taj aims to reduce this gap by working on similar projects in the future.
Shagun Irfan, Principal of City School Capital Campus, found the training session interesting and informative and is sending Heads of Departments from her school for this year’s training. According to Shagun, “I was surprised to learn that on average 15-20% of school children suffer from some sort of mental health problem. After receiving this thorough training session, I was able to recognise and address the problems of students with mental health issues in a better way.”
Shagun also said “I am now able to persuade the parents of children who suffer from mental health problems to seek medical help. I am also organising more talks in the school and inviting guest speakers to talk about stress management, mental health disorders and how to tackle these mental health issues.”
In addition to future training the link have also secured further funding to create on-line training materials in Urdu in 2012.
IHLFS Team, British Council Pakistan