Kiran was a lucky young lady who had everything; money, beauty and fortune– that a person can wish for. After studies she got married to a handsome, rich guy. All her friends envied at her luck. She had a happy marital life; soon had a baby and lost touch with her friends. Then we came to know that she was under-treatment in a hospital for severe depression for several months.This single case raised several questions in my mind. Is she the only person who is suffering from such trauma or are we simply ignorant of our friends’ and relations’ emotional and psychological problems until they reach a point of breakdown?
According to the World Health Organization’s report, in most developing countries including Pakistan the minimum number of people needing psychiatric attention is about 35 percent. Only in Karachi, 1.2 million people are estimated to suffer from major psychological disorders and if stress-related illnesses are included, the figures rises to 3 million.
Mental illnesses are the most misunderstood area in our society. Usually, they are taken very casually. But when become serious, the society harshly outcast the victims as Crazy and Maniac. There are an estimated 400 million people with anxiety disorders and 340 million with mood disorders worldwide. Researches discover that depression and anxiety are the most prevalent among women while mania and substance abuse disorders, involving alcoholism, smoking, drugs, sedatives and stimulants intake, are more common in men.
Mental illness and addictive disorders are major causes of widespread illness, disability and premature death in different countries. People with these disorders experience severe pain and agony; many are forced into economic independence, homelessness, social isolation and loss of opportunities. In fact, all of us experience depression and mania at some point of our lives. The loss of a loved one or a job can depress us. Any achievement or good news may make us maniac. But the same reactions can be taken as serious mental illnesses when it persists for long, more than two weeks or so, without any obvious reason.
Depression is perhaps the highest reported problem in modern, mechanical world. Women are especially exposed to it and married women with children and housewives are even at greater risk due to their socio-economic status and lifestyle. There is an example of Amna, 35, with three children aged between 9-14. Her husband is a bank mamager. They were having a happy marital life. But gradually Amna was getting depressed, complaining about insignificance of her life. She lost interest in household activities, stopped cleaning her house, cooking and even taking care of her children. Her husband thought that she might be ill since most of the time she felt tired, cried uncontrollably and wanted to be left alone. He decided to take her for medical check-up. The day they had an appointment with doctor, she took many sleeping pills. She was rushed to a hospital and was luckily saved. But her suicidal attempt reflected the severity of her depression and an immediate need for intensive therapy and medication.
In our society, role of housewife has been increasingly devalued nowadays. However, most of the women still have to rely on the same role for their identity and self-esteem. It involves several frustrations like boring routine, isolation, lack of recognition, acceptance and income. Even the workingwomen are not in better position, as they have to face the double pressure of conflictions at home, uncooperative partner, discrimination and poor conditions at work place. Such an environment results in increasing depression and anxiety problems among women.
It is visible that more than half of our women folk suffer intense sadness, pessimism, worthlessness and sense of guilt, which affect their physical and mental health. They lose or gain excessive weight, face problems in sleep, grieve endlessly, withdraw socially, unable to perform their role efficiently and in extreme cases commit suicide. Researches show that women with a stable partner, one or two children, and a part-time income-generating job, are less likely to be exposed to depression and anxiety.
Youth is another major sufferer of depression and anxiety in the modern world. Poor parent-child relationships, undue high expectations, failures in life are the main reasons behind it. Rehan was a 20-year-old college student who came to the counseling center suffering from severe depression. The parents who punished any outward expression of anger or hostility raised him. His mother often reminded him “Nobody likes a mischievous brat”. In result he became extremely submissive and was often exploited and mistreated by his peers. Rather than expressing his anger towards others, he became angry with himself, and developed a negative self-image that resulted in chronic depression.
Ahmed had another problem. His family always had high expectations from its eldest son. His father, a successful surgeon wanted him to become a doctor and inculcated these feelings in him from his early childhood. Although he did extremely well in school, his parents took it for granted and always demanded for better. However, whenever he failed or didn’t excel in any competition, they showed that they were not only disappointed but felt disgraced too. Such an attitude developed an extremely negative self-image in Ahmed. He felt like a failure and was uncertain about his future.
We observe numerous such cases around us in everyday life. Many a times we are a part of it and creating problems for others through our negligence and negative attitudes. Depressed people are going through an extremely painful phase and need full emotional and professional support to get back their lost faith in life and in themselves.Unfortunately, we as a society are losing that closely-knit family and friends’ structures that used to function as a support group in such situations. Besides we are also lacking the spiritual strength based on strong cultural and religious beliefs that provides a shelter against all miseries and evils. In nuclear family set up where television transmits values in place of grandparents, it’s obvious.
Psychiatrists say that most psychological problems are the result of emotional instability. It is amazing that every one of us claims to be sensitive, complains about being alone and misunderstood but fails to solve this self-created alienation by sharing our feelings and pains with others. Declining social environment is another major determinant of increasing mental health problems in recent years. Poverty, overcrowded living conditions, unemployment, job insecurity and inequity, growing number of broken relations and marriages, man-made natural disasters, wars, ethnic violence as well as violence against women, children and aged are some of the major factors which aggravate the situation.
On the whole, it is reported that one quarter of the world’s population is affected by some kind of mental, behavioural and substance abuse disorder at any one time in their lives. In fact, no one of us is out of risk. Precaution is better than cure but do we have enough awareness and more than that required medical facilities for mental patients. According to a study by the World Health Organization, for about 1.2 million patients in Karachi, there are only three small units in medical colleges and some in private hospitals, containing 250 beds. While the no of registered psychiatrists is only fifty.
We can prevent mental illnesses by making life easy for ourselves and for others as well. Along with this, there is need for increase in psychiatric facilities and quality services at affordable rates for the common man. If we want to develop a healthy society, everyone has to be given an equal chance to live, grow and enjoy. No civilized, human society can follow Survival for the fittest rule because no one of us can claim to be fit forever without support from others.