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People have started facing impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health: Experts

Around 25 to 30 percent world’s population is suffering from one or her other types of mental ailments and their incidence is constantly on the rise due to affects of COVID-19.
Published October 10, 2020

KARACHI: National and international experts on the eve of World Mental Health Day 2020 urged governments of developing countries to invest more on mental health as people have started facing impact of COVID-19 on their mental health and now new types of psychiatric illnesses are being observed all over the world including Pakistan.

Around 25 to 30 percent world’s population is suffering from one or her other types of mental ailments and their incidence is constantly on the rise due to affects of COVID-19, national and international mental health experts said while speaking at an international conference at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) on Saturday.

The conference was organized by Pakistan Psychiatric Association (PPA) and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) Karachi Najmuddin Auditorium and it was addressed by President-elect of World Psychiatric Association (WPA) Prof. Dr. Afzal Javed, eminent psychiatrist Prof. Haroon Ahmed, President PPA Prof. Iqbal Afridi, British Pakistani Psychiatrist Association (BPPA) Chairman Dr. Qaiser Abbass Zaidi, former test cricketer Younous Khan, Dr. Unaiza Niaz, Prof. Lindsay Thompson from University of Edinburg and several other national and international mental health experts.

On the occasion, Pakistan Psychiatric Association President Prof. Iqbal Afridi announced that they are starting Prof. Haroon Ahmed Research Award in the field of psychiatry and every year, one top researcher of Pakistan would be awarded Prof. Haroon Ahmed Research Award and Rs. 150,000 cash prize. PPA would contribute Rs. 1 million for the award while Prof. Haroon Ahmed also announced contributing Rs. 1 million for the award.

Speaking as the chief guest at the mental health conference with the theme “Mental Health for All: Greater Investment – Greater Access. Everyone, Everywhere”, Prof. Haroon Ahmed said COVID-19 has started affecting the mental health of people all over the world and in Pakistan people with a newer type of depression and symptoms of PTSD are approaching the psychiatrists for treatment.

“People are complaining of symptoms like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to COVID-19 related stress and experiences. A newer type of depression, which is not clinically depression, is also being observed where people are feeling of loneliness and lack of interest in daily life. These issues have a close relation to COVID-19 and its impacts on daily life of people”, he said.

Prof. Haroon Ahmed maintained that it is heartening to note that people are breaking the taboos and publically admitting that they are under treatment for depression, anxiety and other mental disorders, saying 70 percent of the depression is due to biochemical imbalance in the brain, which is not the fault of patient.

“I’m saying this for last several decades that there is no need to hide mental illnesses. In fact, some of the people with mental illnesses including depression and bipolar disorder”, he said and added that mental is given low priority but it is high prevalence health issue in our society.

President-elect of WPA Prof. Afzal Javed claimed that prevalence of mental health issues is not less than cancer or cardiac ailments in the world and it is estimated that now 25 to 30 percent of the world’s population is suffering from one or other kind of mental illness, adding that it is right time that more resources are allocated for the mental wellbeing, treatment and cure in countries like Pakistan.

Congratulating PPA and JPMC’s department of psychiatry for the successful event, Prof Afzal Javed claimed that several countries of the world had started observing COVID-19 mental health issues, especially those facing continuing conflicts and economic crisis like Pakistan and said it is right time that the mental health institutes and this important area of medical sciences is provided with ample resources to deal with the upcoming pandemic of mental health issues.

PPA President and Dean JPMC Prof. Iqbal Afridi said it is right time that people also start investing in their mental health, which means that they start doing exercise to prevent themselves from obesity, stop using drugs, and reduce their use of mobile phones and computers to stay mentally healthy.

Talking about COVID-19 related health issues, Prof. Afridi said Coronavirus anxiety and phobia as well as touch-deprivation phenomenon were some of the pandemic-related mental issues which were affecting the lives of people and called for creating awareness about mental health issues among common people.

Test cricketer Younis Khan spoke for the importance of having mental health for sportsmen in taking critical decision making while eminent psychiatrist Dr. Unazia Niaz called for publically hanging rapists and child molesters to give a sense of protection to people, especially children and their parents.


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