In order to address the lack of mental health services in Karachi, Civil Hospital formed a partnership with Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust. Under this link, the psychiatry department at Civil Hospital is training nurses at Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, in various areas of mental health.

A deep crisis amongst the Karachi population

Karachi is the largest and most populous city of Pakistan, with an estimated population of 18 million. According to Dr. Syed Ali Wasif of the Pakistan Association for Mental Health (PAMH), “about 1.2 million people in Karachi suffer from major psychiatric disorders, and if those suffering from stress-related disorders are included, the figure rises to three million.” Factors that contribute to such a high percentage of mental health problems include poverty, unemployment and limited access to health services.

Making a difference

Roma, Afshan, Riffat and Tasneem, student nurses, found the training sessions extremely useful. “Since student nurses usually study only one course of psychology, these workshops have given us a deeper insight into the subject area,” they explained. “We learnt new terms and studied real life examples which were very effective.”

A training workshop on Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), a medical scale used for measuring symptom severity of patients with schizophrenia, was also organised by Civil Hospital for psychiatrists, psychologists and researchers. Sakina Alam Khan, a practicing clinical psychologist at Civil Hospital, benefited greatly from the session. “I used to find it difficult to draw a clear line between mild, moderate and severe patients. After this training, I feel much more comfortable in assessing patients. My seniors now believe that the training has brought a drastic change in the way I mark patients.”

Expanding the success

Dr. Raza-ur-Rehman, head of psychiatry at Civil Hospital and lead coordinator for this project, aims to improve mental health services not just in Karachi, but across Pakistan. The success of this project has given him the impetus to offer training to psychiatrists, psychologists, researchers and nurses throughout the country.

IHLFS Team, British Council Pakistan