Alvi for body on mental health helpline for patients

F.P. Report
ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi has said that a committee may be constituted by the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination on mental health, with members from public and private stakeholders to brainstorm different ideas, benchmark local and international best practices to come up with a comprehensive plan to provide Mental Health counselling and services to the people who were facing mental health issues or disorders.
The President expressed these views while chairing a meeting on mental health, at Aiwan-e-Sadr, on Monday. The meeting was attended by members of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), World Health Organization (WHO), Pakistan Psychiatric Society (PPS), Taskeen Health Initiative, officials of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, and other organizations working on the issue of mental health and well-being.
Addressing the meeting, the President stated that Pakistan had limited resources to cope with the burden of mental health as an estimated 80% of people with Mental Health needs remain untreated. He said that there was a need to increase the pool of psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors on a top priority basis to ensure the reach of mental health services to the target population, especially to the unprivileged persons in underserved areas of the country. He stated that ensuring good mental health and resolving the mental health issues of the people of Pakistan at the early stages would help increase the productivity of our nation.
The President underlined the need to develop and create mental health providers, especially at the primary level for the early diagnoses and treatment to arrest the illness at the initial stages which most of the time required active listening and counselling and stopping it from reaching an advanced level which required expensive curative treatment.
He said that in this regard, all available training resources within the private and public sectors of the country and online training facilities available internationally should be fully exploited to create a critical mass of mental health providers as fast as possible.
The President said that web-based applications, including chatbots and other IT-based applications, may also be fully incorporated into the system to provide the first line of help to persons suffering from mental issues. He further said that 45 to 50% of people, who were suffering from mental health issues, could be treated by providing them immediate services.
The President said that there was a need to integrate all the existing mental health helpline services into a national mental health system to provide quality, authentic and credible services to people facing mental health issues. He added that the elements of trust, confidentiality, authenticity and credibility of the services must be taken into account while establishing a mental health helpline.
The President stated that there was a need to create synergy among the stakeholders and to determine the mental health burden, take stock of all the resources, both online and web-based, total human resources available and how to increase human resources commensurate to the needs of the people.