There is a mental health crisis in Pakistan, due to a lack of mental health awareness and access to treatment. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is the stigma, and therefore secrecy, surrounding mental health problems. Our programme to tackle the crisis was supported by donations to our 2018 Ramadan campaign match-funded by CareTech Foundation and COSARAF Charitable Foundation. Thanks to your generosity, we’re successfully continuing to change minds.

‘Getting the Message Across’ reported on the first three months of our Pakistan mental health programme. Here are results from October to December 2018.

Our three established partners in the country: Interactive Research & Development (IRD), Sehat Kahani, and Basic Needs Pakistan (BNPK) are working with marginalised communities (especially women and children) amidst cultural conservatism and poverty. In the last three months of 2018 they reached more than 12,300 people with community awareness raising and participation sessions, as well as mental health services.

IRD, who had been focusing on encouraging people to start conversations about mental health to raise awareness, reached more than 3,800 people. They ran 364 awareness-raising meetings and worked with a further 72 schools to further extend the number of people that they were engaging with. In total, 3,032 individuals were screened for depression and anxiety, and 235 of them were referred for further counselling. To encourage follow through of referrals, they introduced local support groups managed by trained facilitators.

Sehat Kahani has been delivering similarly encouraging results. They successfully trained 25 doctors to increase their understanding of mental health through a mental health first aid session and an online webinar run by a clinical psychologist. Additionally, eight community health workers and two nurses were trained in facilitating groups to raise mental health awareness. Through door-to-door engagement, Muhalla meetings at e-clinics and sessions in schools, they have reached 8,400 people. Of these, 81% of those taking part either shared their own personal struggle with mental health, showed empathy for those suffering or agreed to discuss their struggles with their loved ones. In addition to providing referrals to third-party mental health services, Sehat Kahani identified a need for an online psychologist to provide therapy at their e-clinics. Towards the end of the year they recruited to this role and the psychologist has since conducted 25 sessions.

BNPK, our third partner, delivered general training on mental health to 20 instructors to help them identify signs and symptoms of mental illness and skills to provide basic help using Mental Health First Aid Tools. Based in Lahore and Peshawar, these instructors have weekly video-call support and supervision to arrange further mental health training workshops in these cities to teach new workers. They have already conducted four training workshops, successfully reaching and creating an additional 139 new instructors who can also now provide basic mental health help.

We believe in continuously learning from our experiences from the field and research. We have learned that there is significant need for post-natal depression support within communities. Hence, we have shortlisted another partner, Human Development Research Foundation (HDRF) who have a WHO approved programme for community level intervention for maternal mental health, with a focus on post-natal depression. We are working to bring HDRF on board as a training partner for IRD and Sehat Kahani.

The results from the programme over that last quarter show results in line with expectations in some areas and lower than anticipated in others. We are adjusting accordingly. Most encouragingly, however, the programme is establishing trust within participating communities and is seeing a growing demand for services as more individuals come forward to access support. Also, as levels of awareness increase within communities, the idea that all mental health issues can only be resolved through clinical intervention is being dispelled. It is encouraging that more than 12,000 people have been reached through the interventions so far. We will continue to review, with a view to further increasing uptake of services.