Terrorism is affecting the mental health of Pakistanis | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 12.10.2012
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Terrorism is affecting the mental health of Pakistanis

According to health professionals, the number of people suffering from depression and other mental health problems is increasing in Pakistan - a country struggling with Islamist militancy and a dysfunctional economy.

Mental health experts say Pakistanis have become more intolerant and violent because of aggravating mental and emotional health in recent years.

Imran Murtaza, a health expert at the Fountain House medical center in Lahore, told DW that most of the population felt insecure about the future.

"The ongoing insurgency, lawlessness and suicide bombings have made lives miserable for most Pakistanis. Other than that, price hikes and unemployment have made things worse," Murtaza said.

The 65-year-old nation's economy is heavily dependent on the World Bank and the IMF. Inflation and unemployment are currently higher than ever, and a lot of young people are desperate to leave the country in search of work.

Worst existential crisis ever

People mourn over the death of their family member, a victim of suicide bombing, at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan

Suicide bombings by the Taliban militants have killed scores of Pakistanis

Political commentators believe that Pakistan is currently facing its worst existential crisis ever, in the form of the Taliban insurgency taking place in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the separatist movement in the western region of Baluchistan.

Dr. Naeem Siddiqui from the Aga Khan Hospital in Lahore said that the increase in terrorist activities in the country was one of the main reasons behind people's worsening mental health.

"On the one hand, people are becoming violent and insecure," he told DW. "On the other, they are becoming very insensitive. If there’s a bomb blast in the city, people don't ask how and why the blast happened; they ask about which roads are blocked for traffic because of it."

Medical facilities provided by the Pakistani government in flood-hit areas

Pakistan's public health sector is neglected by the government

He added that serious mental disabilities and social phobias tended to affect Pakistan’s female population. "In Western countries, marriage means stability in a person's life, but in Pakistan it is the contrary," he said. "A majority of mental health patients in Pakistan are married women. They are unhappy with their marriages and not treated well by their husbands and in-laws."

He also pointed out that the "family system," which used to provide some stability and security, was breaking down because of changing economic and social trends, thus contributing to a general sense of fear.

Siddiqui also criticized the government for not paying attention to people's mental health problems: "For 170 million Pakistanis, there are only 450 trained mental health experts in the country."

Moreover, he said that Pakistanis themselves did not take emotional and mental health problems seriously. Often they consulted clerics or occult practitioners in case of depression rather than seeking the advice of mental health experts.

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