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How can a nation in which nearly half the population is medically depressed hope to

progress or move forward with anything resembling real energy or vigour? According to
research conducted by the Pakistan Association for Mental Health in a semi-urban
locality near Karachi, it was found that ! percent of people were depressed!
"he finding bears out research conducted previously by international organisations on
mental health conditions in Pakistan! "o make matters worse there are only #$% trained
psychiatrists in the country to treat these people! &f course most of the victims would
have no access to these specialists, who are based only in urban centres and usually
charge high fees!
"he reasons for depression were found to be centred around financial conditions
including 'oblessness, a large number of children, work overload and housing issues! "his
again should come as no surprise! (ssentially we all know the situation in which most of
our people lead their lives! )e choose often to ignore them!
*ut the stark, undisguised figures from a reputable organisation are frightening+ they
cannot be denied! "hey tie in also with the alarming rate of suicide in the country which
was put for ,%-. by the Human /ights 0ommission of Pakistan, at ,,$-1 victims, -2- of
them minors! "here were many other cases of attempted suicide, and of course the stigma
linked to such self inflicted killings in our country mean many cases are never reported!
3ews reports have also reported suicide by children as young as -- years! 4inancial
tensions in a home affect every member!
"his is not a situation we can continue to live under! "he rate of depression is so high that
it cannot be treated on an individual basis! 5lobal tables suggest there is no other country
where more people are depressed, though the methodologies used for this research vary!
"he issue 6uite obviously stems from the overall social environment in our nation and it
is this root cause of the problem that needs to be addressed!
7oing that is obviously a long-term task! *ut it is one that should be made a priority! )e
desperately need to uplift our people and make it possible for them to live normal lives,
free of the degree of angst and an8iety they currently face! "he tensions that arise from
economic difficulties also have a wider social impact! "hey contribute, for e8ample, to
the high rate of crime in the country and also to findings that a large number of school
going children are clinically depressed! "he e8act figures are disputed, but organisations
have put the rate at as high as ,$ or .% percent!
"he reasons for this arise from household situations as well as the e8tra pressures
children face because they know their parents struggle to cope with e8penses for
education and e8pect high grades in return! "he conditions at schools only worsen
matters, with only a miniscule percentage of privileged children able to obtain 6uality
learning! "he state of our education system, with public sector schools offering very little
to their pupils, makes things worse!
3owhere in the world should children feel compelled to claim their own lives because
they have failed an e8am or been able to reach parental e8pectations! "his has happened,
according to news reports, in the case of children at 2th and -%th grade levels or in some
cases even younger than that!
"he problem of depression will also inevitably have an impact on the morale of a nation!
)hen so many people struggle with acute day to day problems that never go away, there
can be little hope for the optimism, initiative or the vibrancy that shows a nation on the
way to progress and success! 9t is 6uite obvious we are not on this road!
"his of course is the reason why people seek change! 9t does not appear to be coming
their way any time soon from any direction! 9t is possible also that beyond Karachi, in the
more impoverished districts of :indh and *alochistan ; the two poorest provinces in the
country ; the rates of depression are even higher! 3o comprehensive study has been
carried out to assess the problem! *ut it is one that needs to be tackled!
9t e8plains also the desperation of people to escape overseas in the hope of better lives ;
many in the process falling into the hands of unscrupulous agents when they attempt to
do so! A very large number are e8ploited by false promises which lead them nowhere!
9ndeed they sometimes lead them to 'ails in foreign lands and even to death aboard
overloaded, illegal human trafficking vessels or at the hands of border guards! 7espite
this they continue to go or attempt to smuggle their children to other lands!
"he state of people has an impact on the state of any nation as a whole! "he fact that so
much misery e8ists among us is not one that can be ignored! "he PAMH has pointed out
that depression is the condition that hampers both domestic and working lives! 9t
recommends that in our circumstances it can be treated only through ma'or social reform
aimed at reducing the immense pressures people feel!
:tress created by working e8tra-long hours, in a 6uest to earn more, has been rated as a
global cause for depressive disorders! 9t is also untrue that these pressures are 'ust felt by
the very poor! "he salaried middle class faces them as well and they have grown over the
years as a conse6uence of inflation and deteriorating social conditions! "he healthcare,
education and social welfare structure has all but collapsed and this inevitably affects
almost everyone in the country!
/emedies to this are not easy to find+ the problems have multiplied due to years of
mismanagement and neglect by one setup after the other! "hings today are worse than
they were two or three decades ago! "he reality is one we cannot deny and the truth is
that we have to come up with solutions! :o far all our political parties, including the so-
called <revolutionaries= who have staged their sit-ins and rallies, have not 6uite said what
they can do for the people! Politics remains centred around power and the lust for it!
*ut we cannot continue in this fashion! :omething has to be done+ solutions have to be
found! "he primary duty of politicians and leaders elected by people is to find these
answers! "he rate of depression shows 'ust how much people need their problems to be
solved, or at least eased! :o far no policy that we have in place has fully addressed the
issue! "he small scale work done by charitable or developmental organisations can have
only a limited impact!
5iven the findings that we now see laid down before us after the country=s first scientific
study conducted on depression it seems obvious we need to do something very
drastically! Allowing people to live as they do now is nothing short of a crime! "hose
responsible for it ; chiefly the elements that wield power in the country ; need to be
punished for the crime! "here is little possibility of this happening or an escape taking
place from the dark web of depression that holds us!
"he writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor!