I think we are all familiar with the term “therapy”. It is a treatment method used by healthcare professionals for patients who have physical or mental disorders. It includes various approaches with the purpose of addressing the mental health issues of a patient; examples can include “psychodynamic therapy” for exploring the unconscious thoughts and feelings of a patient.
Another example is “behavioral therapy,” where the purpose is to identify and help change the self-destructive or unhealthy behaviors of a patient. When it comes to therapy in Pakistan, the public’s perception of mental health is vastly different from what we see in Western society.
Therapy is not common within Pakistan, and many average citizens see it as a stigma or a luxury that can only be afforded by the rich and elites of society. There is a stigma associated with therapy and mental health issues, even in the upper class, and this is mainly due to cultural factors. The conventional beliefs generated within our society play a critical role in stigmatizing mental health and seeking therapy.
For many people in Pakistan, admitting to having a mental health problem and seeking help from a healthcare professional is associated with a sign of weakness. Avoiding therapy is partially influenced by such public perceptions and ways of thinking. Furthermore, economic challenges also play a major role, and the limited mental health services are also a factor in why therapy is not a suitable option for the average citizen to address their issues.
In recent years, there has been a change in public perception in relation to mental health, where many now consider it a major issue and, more likely, an epidemic growing within Pakistan. In recent years, many medical colleges and universities have introduced mental health-related majors, including BS Psychology and BS Clinical Psychology, in various universities, including Aga Khan University, known for its strong mental health programs, including its psychiatry and psychology programs.
Such programs in universities will further help in producing healthcare professionals for the therapy field. The current economic conditions and social instability within the country have led to the rise of mental health cases, where many individuals are now suffering from depression, anxiety, and, to some extent, even PTSD, considering the recent events that have taken place within our nation.
The prevalence of serious mental illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, and epilepsy highlights the need for greater awareness and easier access to mental health services in Pakistan, despite efforts to address mental health issues. A considerable section of the population finds it more difficult to access mental health care, including therapy, as a result of the situation being further exacerbated by economic difficulties and a lack of mental health services. Ignoring such a situation will only result in a further decline in public mental health, which will eventually lead to massive unrest and anarchy.
It is essential for both the government and the public to admit this rising threat and further work on normalizing the trend of seeking therapy to address mental health issues similar to what we see in many first-world developed nations.