Psychologists, Direly Needed


M. Zahid Rifat

According to an estimate, about 36 per cent of Pakistanis suffer from anxiety and depression

Pakistan direly needs more and more psychologists as the country’s population continues to grow rapidly in an unabated manner, increasing number of people including women and children are suffering from mental health problems. Pakistan’s population has already crossed figures of 220 million but has one of the poorest mental health indicators as only less than 500 psychologists/psychiatrists are there for the entire population. This paucity of mental health professionals creates a narrow treatment gap leaving more than 90 per cent of the people with common mental health diseases without any treatment whatsoever.
Psychological problems in Pakistan are pretty widespread. According to one estimate, around 50 million people of all genders and ages suffer from mental disorders. A wide range of psychiatric disorders are generally been reported such as depression, substance and alcohol use, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to another estimate, a large number of about 36 per cent of Pakistanis suffer from anxiety and depression, which is often caused by strained family and friend relations, the feeling of not fitting in the society, the unstable economic and political conditions of the country giving rise to unemployment and poverty.
Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that causes extreme and unusual shifts in mood, energy and activity levels. Lot Can be said about sorts of mental disorders and issues but the same is being avoided here for want of space.
While it is socially acceptable to seek help from a health professional for physical disorders, seeking help for psychological disorders is rather problematic in the country. Families often hide mental illness to prevent the patient from adverse stereotyping.
It is generally said and believed that if a doctor/physician listens to his patient attentively, almost half of his pain due to disease is gone even before any formal treatment. Both psychologists and psychiatrists are trained to identify mental disorders and issues. A psychologist may help the patient in addressing symptoms through therapy by touching skills whereas a psychiatrist may prescribe medication to any such patient.
In the backdrop of this not so encouraging situation at all, it is good to note that people particularly young women are opting for studying and specializing in clinical psychology for treating their fellow countrymen of all ages and genders.
One such young woman is Zunaira Qayyum, whom this scribe came across recently and the discussion briefly mentioned above took place, who emphatically stated that her childhood dream of becoming a successful girl in the medical profession is one-half coming true as she is very close to the goal of becoming a clinical psychologist and next half of the dream will hopefully be accomplished when she become known throughout Pakistan as an emphatic listener.
About her being an emphatic listener, Zunair Qayyum said,” I want to listen to my country’s sorrows and I want to spend my life serving the people of Pakistan, every day I keep praying that Almighty Allah gives me the courage to become a better person and a successful psychologist for the people who are suffering from any illness, I will spend my entire life working for kids and adults having mental health problems, telling everyone to remember no matter how difficult life be there is always hope and there is always help”.
She said that her cherished goal in life is to become a leading psychologist, start a private practice in Lahore and start taking patients, the most skill for a therapist is also her best skill i.e. the power of listening. She already has to her credit working with the adult patients at the Punjab Institute of Mental Health Lahore and with autistic children at an international institute in Gulberg, Lahore.
Zunaira Qayyum did her MSc in Psychology from Government College for Women Gujranwala, studied hard for higher studies in Philosophy and is now specializing in Clinical Psychology and doing thesis work at the University of Lahore.
According to her, when she was 10 years old, she used to dream that one day she would become a successful girl in a medical profession, she has been all along been encouraged and supported by her mother to grow up and achieve her cherished goals. She is the first girl in her family to have studied for higher academic degrees.
One of Zunaira Qayyum’s maternal aunts was special. As a small child, she used to look after her and on growing up, she decided to continue helping out the people who are differently abled and have different abilities and needs than most of us adding ” I have an enthusiasm in my heart to feel the sensitivity of psychological matters, please come to me, meet me, we will discuss and discover ideas to deal with your problems in a very clear and simple manner”.
She has got most of her inspiration from world-renowned Pakistani artist and social crusader Jimmy Engineer who has served Pakistan all his life saying ” I want to become like Jimmy Engineer, let me admit that all my heart, my spirit and my breath is for the people of Pakistan, I promise to serve them faithfully from now onwards till my day of death, it is an honour to be a servant of Pakistan”.
Please join this scribe in wishing her the best in realizing her cherished goal of becoming a leading clinical psychologist and serving the people of her motherland and in praying that more and more people particularly young women follow her suit and opt for higher studies in Psychology as the country needs more and more qualified and trained psychologists and psychiatrists, please.