Mental health; Bushra’s story

43-year-old Bushra lives a difficult, yet happy life with her husband and four children. Her husband is a daily wage worker earning PKR 150 (approximately 68p) a day and their eldest son contributes to the household working as a rickshaw driver.

The family’s struggle of day-to-day survival was interrupted when Bushra was diagnosed with cancer.

With little access to any helpful information, and no finances for costly cancer treatment Bushra thought that she had been handed a death sentence and slipped into depression and anxiety. This was exacerbated by her COVID-19 diagnosis.  Her small ray of hope was dashed when she realised that she didn’t have the required documentation for applying to a free of cost cancer treatment programme. In order to protect her family, Bushra didn’t share her worries with anyone and bottling up her emotions during this turbulent time only proved to worsen her mental health as she slowly gave up on life.

It was then that Bushra called the British Asian Trust’s partner Interactive Research Development’s (IRD) mental health support helpline and was referred to a counsellor. Having established a trusting relationship with the counsellor, Bushra was able to open up about her issues. She was first educated about her illness and was assisted to identify the authentic sources of information regarding the illness. She felt supported and was able to talk about her illness and feelings with ease. She also realised the importance of a healthy support system, learnt to identify unhelpful thoughts that increased her anxiety  and replace them with healthy balanced thoughts.

As her sessions continued Bushra grew to have a more hopeful approach towards her illness, she worked to get the necessary documents required that would help her get treatment. She has now started treatment at a non-profit hospital and is feeling more enthusiastic and positive about the outcome.

Speaking about her experience, Bushra said:

‘Counselling has helped me reconnect with my family during this time. I understand the importance of open communication. I realise that I shouldn’t give up and am hopeful that I will get well.’

With the support of partners such as CareTech Charitable Foundation and the work of local partner organisations, like IRD, the British Asian Trust is determined to raise awareness and provide vital community mental health services to help more people in Pakistan.

Name has been changed.

Bushra not included in photo.