The past weekend saw the arrival of TEDx to Karachi. And it would be no understatement to say that the truly spectacular event took the local TED enthusiasts by storm (no pun intended to the tropical storm ‘Phet’, which despite its best efforts was unable to dampen the spirits of our organizers). The event was executed in style and gave its attendees a lot of food for thought on this one throbbing question: ‘What Pakistan Needs Now?’ The speakers touched upon tolerance, justice, leadership, women empowerment, interconnection, energy, innovation, hope and similar much needed qualities and resources that Pakistan needs now. The winning video short by Ali Kapadia summarized it pretty nicely: what we need the most is imagination and innovation. As I sat there, inspired (and that’s saying something about our remarkable speakers, because I’m not an easy person to inspire), an inescapable thought came to my mind, and it is something which we as a society tend to overlook most of the time: What Pakistan Needs Now is also a bit of ‘sanity’.
Mental health policies are a fundamental and necessary means for the promotion of mental health awareness in any given population. W.H.O. studies reveal that 40.5% of the countries have no mental health policy at all. Is Pakistan one of them? Well, almost. Pakistan’s mental health policy was first formulated as late as 1997. It aimed at addressing issues of advocacy, promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and inter-sectional collaboration. It set out to produce trained care providers, to establish resource centers at teaching psychiatric hospitals and detoxification centers. It also provided for crisis intervention and counseling services, special facilities for mentally handicapped and up gradation of large mental hospitals. But the said policy is not comprehensive and even today a very meager percentage of the total health care expenditure is allocated towards mental health budget.