Understanding Schizophrenia in Pakistan

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that impairs an individual’s ability to perceive things clearly. Reality check is poor. Patients have disorganized thought pattern and lack ability to communicate coherently.
Schizophrenia affects both male and female populations and usually appears in late 2nd and early third decade of life.
Usual components of schizophrenia are :

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Flat mood
  • Bizarre behavior
  • Paucity of speech and thought
  • Disorganized thinking

Schizophrenia has been divided into 5 types.

  • Paranoid- this type shows prominent and fixed delusions and hallucinations.
  • Disorganized- this type of schizophrenic patients show disorganized speech and behavior. Emotional responses are also exaggerated.
  • Catatonic- this type is resistant to medication. Patients show abnormal body movements and are usually unresponsive to external stimuli.
  • Residual- this type is milder form of disease. Patients show mild residual symptoms.
  • Undifferentiated- patients experience variable symptoms of schizophrenia which are described above.

In Pakistan the mental health is unfortunately an ignored area. Even educated class try to either ignore or not fully understand the disease. Recent studies show that roughly 2 percent of population is suffering from SCZ. People are prone to thinking that some “Jinnat” is doing all this and has captured the soul and body of the affected individual. So individual can be rescued only with the help of some ” Aamil or Peer”. This is especially common in rural population which makes almost 60 percent of total population. In urban population things are slightly changing and more people now seeking treatment from professionals.
Another problem is social stigma that is attached with mental illnesses in Pakistan. People take itt as form of mental and personal weakness. Many social factors also contributing to increased incidence of Schizophrenia. Economic and personal life crisis also putting people at risk for early appearance of symptom. Even at the government level, mental health is an ignored subject. So many individuals are seen on streets who are filthy, dressed inappropriately and raising voices that make no sense. People just stare them and try to keep distance so that he or she can not harm them.
Apart from genetic predisposition, drug Addiction also causing increased incidence of Schizophrenia. Such patients with dual diagnosis are very difficult to diagnose and treat. Usually the families are also non compliant. Many teenagers in Pakistan are addicted to nicotine, marijuana, barely nut and psychostimulants like ICE. Repeated use of these substances also causing increased incidence of Schizophrenia.

Keeping in view the culture and general public behavior of Pakistani population, following measures are recommended to help the patients and families suffering from this chronic debilitating mental disease:

  • Raising awareness among general public about schizophrenia through the use of electronic, print media. In high schools and colleges, lectures should be arranged and made compulsory, where Doctors, Psychiatrists and Clinical psychologists should inform the youngsters about mental health issues like schizophrenia.
  • More professionals should be trained in field of psychiatry.
  • Free and standarized treatment facilities should be provided.
  • Aamils and Peers should be put behind the bars.
  • Provision of free medication should be provided to the poor strata of society.
  • Private sectors should be encouraged to play their part
  • Non governmental organization should be encouraged to focus on mental health issues

Currently,the treatment facilities are either insufficient or not equipped with skillful staff. At our rehabilitation facility, New Hope Rehab and Caring center, Islamabad we are trying our best to provide awareness about the mental health issues in general and Schizophrenia in particular. We are providing affordable treatment care. So our team is working both in preventive and curative components of the disease.

( About the author:
Dr Shams Haider, CEO New Hope Rehab and Caring center Islamabad.
He can be reached at shamshaider19@hotmail.com)