Pakistan Ill-Equipped to Deal with Disease of the Mind

Part C: Problems and Solutions

The dislike for people in need of psychological treatment is so deeply woven into our culture, our home and our workplaces that it will need massive awareness raising to help overcome this issue. The problem is also of perception regarding mental illnesses. People perceive people with such problems as weak and ‘abnormal’, as in they are unable to function as normal functioning adults and that is not the case. Though I have talked about two different levels of mental illnesses and both are treated differently in different scenarios they still face disapproval from society.

To further this issue there is a  lack of awareness about the treatment available. There are not many good psychologists and psychiatrists in Pakistan. Even if there are they aren’t as popular as doctors in other fields. Furthermore, the stigma attached to someone searching for treatment for their illness along with someone pursuing psychology as their field of study further worsens the situations.

It is very easy to point out a problem than solve it or just propose some solutions to it. There is a dire need to treat mental illness like a physical disease. Diseases of mind are of equal importance. Depression and anxiety can lead to other physical ailments if not treated or managed properly. There also is dire need to build special education schools. If that is not possible then it should be made compulsory to educate the teachers and train them in firstly, identifying students who require special education and secondly, to teach them or frame the curriculum accordingly. Doctors in emergency health care also need to be trained to identify and deal with such conditions. All in all a massive awareness raising campaign should be launched.

Read Part A: Reflection of Personal Experience here.

Read Part B: The Neglected Special Needs Children here.

Pakistan Ill-Equipped to Deal with Disease of the Mind

Part B: The Neglected Special Needs Children

As a Pakistani and someone who has been through psychological problems from 15 years of age, I can say this with certainty that Pakistan is not ready to treat mental illness at all. There is no training for the doctors or teachers who can diagnose and identify a patient suffering from mental ailment. Diagnosis is the first step to treating such a condition.

Teachers are also unable to recognize students who have learning disabilities and the sad part is that the parents themselves don’t cooperate enough to ‘see’ that their child is special. Another sad turn of events is that Pakistan also does not have sufficient number of schools to educated students of special needs.

Since I started teaching last year, I have been struggling to teach special needs students with the students who don’t need special attention. It is good that we try to treat them like normal students but it is over burdening for them emotionally, psychologically and academically because they are unable to interact and learn the way their fellow classmates can.

A teacher once said to me, “I get it that this kid has autism but that doesn’t mean he can misbehave.” I was not offended but I felt sorry for the kid who had teachers who did not understand his condition. All I said to her was that children with learning disabilities also have behavioral issues. They do not see the world like we do. That’s why they are called special needs children.

It’s not just the teachers. Most students can also notice whether a student is not acting ‘normal’ like they themselves do. A student recently exclaimed out loud in class in a very insulting manner, ‘Oh ma’am, is (named censored) abnormal?’ I stopped in my tracks and just stared at the kid because I could not believe what he had just said. The other kids avoided looking at me. Instead of scolding him I tried telling him that not everyone is the same. Some children need special attention. Some learn fast and some learn slowly. I am pretty sure I was not convincing which depresses me.

I told him to never use insulting words like ‘abnormal’ and ‘retarded’. Such derogatory terms are also one of the reasons that people are in denial and refuse to seek treatment for their illnesses.

Read Part A: Reflection of Personal Experience here.

Read Part C: Problems and Solutions here.

Pakistan Ill-Equipped to Deal with Disease of the Mind

Part A: Reflection of Personal Experience

I can still recall how it all happened so fast. I was in our car with my dad. Suddenly I burst out in tears. There was so much sadness. We were having a normal conversation but I just had this sudden profound urge to cry my lungs out. I wanted to scream as the tears rolled down my eyes but soon I realized I had lost my voice. I could barely speak because I was gasping for air. Air! I wanted to breathe but I couldn’t. My chest hurt while I took shallow breaths that barely reached the depths of my lungs. I thought maybe I was having an asthma attack. I wanted to vomit. I felt so nauseated. The entire place was spinning. I couldn’t see properly or hear anything or breathe anymore. There was only pain.

As I continued to take shallow breaths my dad drove me to PIMS. I couldn’t talk or breathe. I had no idea where my dad was taking me. Yet at the back of my mind I knew I was in the hospital. I could see and hear and understand but my response was so delayed and slow. The doctor asked me questions and I could barely speak with all the tears. She looked angrily at me. I was grown up woman crying like a little baby and was unable to describe the simple symptoms I was experiencing.

They gave me an oxygen mask and made me sit there for fifteen minutes. Then a nurse struggled with my hands to insert gravinate in my veins which she was unable to do so three times. My hands swell and then I vomited. It took me over an hour to normalize but I was so worn out and tired by then. They made me go through a lot of tests which I recognize is important to help in eliminating the obvious causes of this attack. It included ECG, Chest X-rays, blood tests and what not. Everything was clear. So they sent me home without diagnosis.

It happened again. But this time I was able to evade the situation I was in locked myself in a room and started breathing heavily. I was able to control another panic attack. They had happened before too but because I was alone and was able to escape the situations causing the attack I was able to normalize faster. Sometimes these attacks just happen for no reason. That is when one feels overwhelmed and chest starts hurting.

You must be wondering why I am mentioning such a detailed account of what happened. It’s because I was not the only person who had a psychological issue and ended up in the hospital and the medical doctors did not diagnose the disease as they were not prepared to do so. Anxiety disorders and panic attacks aren’t that difficult to deal with, once someone knows what they are dealing with and what approach they should take to manage the problem.

Read Part B: The Neglected Special Needs Children here.

Read Part C: Problems and Solutions here