By A.M. Khan
It is so fast the change has mutable effect on every aspect of life in Chitral. Information technology has been mainstreaming socio-economic life, and it has trended the lifestyle of the young generation dramatically. A young individual does want what his parents non-cognizant of it troubling clash of likes, interests and ambitions. The child’s emotional gratification turns into a woe between parents and society.
The wave of technology-propelled information explosion and exposure opened ways of social interaction, and made life so complex for a rural-dweller ambitious for a life behind the screen. Chitral is top-to-down is imbedded in rural mores and life style with other sixty-two percent population rural population of country, but the difference here is the high literacy rate of education and social exposure. Despite a conservative outlook-of-and-on life fast trending of a modernist lifestyle creates a challenge of social adjustment for educated youth in Chitral.
According to an estimate of Pakistan Association of Mental Health (PAMH), more than 34 percent of Pakistan’s population at present is suffering from one form of mental disorder or another. This debilitating condition has variety of causes which may be social, economic, intellectual and psychological.
Following the passage of 18th amendment in the country when health became a subject of province the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also introduced Mental Health Ordinance. It may or may not be propelled from increasing pressure of human productivity affected from mental disorders, and challenges for sustainable development? The required facilities, however, treating mentally ill people may be better in some other districts of the province but these are non-existent in the whole district of Chitral even high percentage of cases of mental disorders, and suicide cases reported. But now it has become a matter of exigency given the tendency of reported cases. The situation in Chitral being contextually different from other parts of the country should be treated differently for surveys, research and providing a facility.
Based on findings, it is considered a fact that certain mental illnesses affect women twice as much as men. Being at the top of the list are depression and anxiety. A survey conducted in Chitral on the increasing suicide cases in which higher percentage of suicide cases of women and girls were reported. During the last five years, according to social survey conducted by a local civil society organization, the average number of incidents and suicide cases among women and young girls has been estimated at 40 in a year. It also revealed that about 68 percent of the women committed suicide were unmarried. Here the question arises why most of the unmarried girls commit suicide? Can all cases be linked with the reported causes i.e. failure in examination, poor performance in examination, and forced marriages. These may be the causes but other cases also need to be studied in the perspective of suffocating and competitive race (for securing medical or engineering seat or a job), and social stigma of being mentally ill in society– cause of defame for parents and burdensome for family.
Research has proved that prayers and meditation help depression and anxiety. These are perhaps available treatment tools with the people of Chitral dealing with the mental disorders resulting from increasing socio-economic pressure and abrupt change in society. It is also ironic that 80 percent mental patients do not receive treatment, a segment of population does not afford it, and inhabitants of far-flung areas like Chitral do not have this facility.
There is a dearth of specialized mental health resources and manpower in many parts of the country for mental patients. The situation to protect the rights of the mentally ill people have become threatening, and for vulnerable segment of the population including women and children, prisoners, and people with disabilities.
Mental health remains highly stigmatized and neglected in Pakistan. The situation of mental health facilities are highly needed given the increasing mental disorders and suicide cases reported in Chitral. The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa does need to prioritize the unavailability of psychiatrists in the hospitals of Chitral dealing with mental health complications. It also needs to strategize to achieve sustainable development, making the mental health care system under health emergency for this year.
(The writer is M.Phil research scholar at the University of Peshawar).