Pakistan Mental Health Policy and Implementation Plan Summit

Pakistan Institute of Living and learning (PILL) is working since more than 20 years to improve the health and well-being of people with particular emphasis on mental health difficulties. PILL aims at gathering local evidence to inform health and social care policy. We want to develop and test culturally appropriate treatments and if effective contribute to the implementation into local health infrastructure.

Mental health conditions are one of the most common causes of disability worldwide. There are up to one million suicides every year and half of these suicides occur in South Asia. However, there is limited awareness and great stigma attached to mental illness. Pakistan has high rates of mental disorders similar to many low and middle income countries. According to one estimate up to 50 million people in Pakistan are likely to experience mental health difficulties including substance misuse. We are a young nation and 64% of our population is under the age of 30 which is our biggest asset; however, there are increasing concerns of how best to meet their mental health needs so that they are able to reach their best potential. Stigma is a major barrier and people with mental illness are seen as violent, look different from others and are believed to never get better. Such misleading stereotypes have to be addressed. People with mental disorders and substance misuse are at a higher risk of self-harm and death by suicide. Unemployment, economic pressures, poor housing, relationship problems and isolation are some of the important factors associated with suicide.  

Pakistan Institute of Living and Learning (PILL) in  collaboration with the University of Manchester arranged meetings with different government officials and ministries to promote mental health policies. Prof. Nusrat Husain from the University of Manchester and PILL team members Ms. Amna Noureen and Mr. Farooq Ahmad met Mr Riaz Fatyana convener SDGS Task Force, Mr. Shafqat Mehmood Federal Education Minister, Dr. Samra Mazhar Director Mental health Ministry of National Health Services, HEC Officials, Dr. Muhammad Asif Chief Health Ministry of Planning Development and Reforms etc.

Back in September 2019 Pakistan Institute of Living and Learning in collaboration with the University of Manchester organized Pakistan Self Harm and Suicide prevention round table conference at the Royal College of Psychiatrist London UK, renowned mental health professional from around the world including Pakistan and Mr. Riaz Fatyana Member of the national assembly attended the event and presented a suicide decriminalization bill in the National Assembly of Pakistan on his way back from the UK.

In continuation of the journey Pakistan institute of Living and Learning joined hands with Pakistan SDGs Secretariat and the University of Manchester and organized “All Parliamentary Mental Health Summit” back in March 2020 in the President House and honorable Mr. President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi attended the Summit as Chief Guest. Other than MR President different MNAs and MPAs, Senators, Government officials, Bureaucrats, Mental Health Professional from UK, USA, and Canada and around the country also attended the summit. Honorable President appreciated the organizers for taking the lead on mental health policy and implementation. He further expressed his views to come and join hands with the government of Pakistan to promote and improve mental health in Pakistan. Dr. Arif Alvi showed his keen interest and call for the final proceedings of the All Parliamentary Mental Health Summit and concluded with offering his full support in this regards.

Mr Riaz Fatyana expressed his views that SDGS Secretariat in collaboration with PILL and University of Manchester has a unique opportunity to learn from research in Pakistan and gain input from national and international stakeholders to plot a road map for the National Mental Health Strategy 2020-2030. In the next 18 months till October 2021 that follow the summit we will collaborate with key stakeholders to develop this strategy and its implementation plan.

We are working on the following five thematic areas;