Like most other developing countries, the state of mental healthcare facilities in Pakistan is quite bleak. Around 50 million Pakistanis are suffering from some mental disorder, but most of us still consider requiring and seeking mental help a taboo. This makes the lives of people with psychological disorders even more difficult. However, people are slowly getting awareness regarding these issues, thanks to the media and the internet. But this process is very slow. There are some typical Pakistani responses which people here give when they hear about someone getting psychological help. These include the following:
The Typical Pakistani Responses to Someone Getting Psychological Help
1- Hain? Ye pagal hai kya? Dikhne mein toh acha bhala/ achi bhali lagti hai (What? Are they crazy? They don’t look crazy)
It is a common misconception among Pakistanis that only people who have totally lost their sense of reality (schizophrenics and psychotics) need psychological help. In order to qualify for that, they have to look disheveled, do bizarre acts and talk incoherently. If that doesn’t happen, the person does not need psychological help (at least according to the Pakistani logic), regardless of how critical their mental situation is.
2- Ameeron ke chonchley hain bas (These things are only the airs of the rich)
This is such a huge misapprehension, especially since people from lower or lower middle socioeconomic backgrounds are more at risk for mental illnesses. So while ‘going to the shrink’ might be considered a fashionable thing to do among the elite, real mental health problems are certainly not restricted to the upper class.
3- Haw! Sirf baat karne ke itne paise dega/degi (He/ she will pay so much only to talk??)
Psychological counselling or therapy is not ‘just talking’ … it is talking with a purpose. Mental health professionals undergo years of training in order to know how to help people via verbal communication. So no, talking to some random phuppo, khala or cousin is not the same as talking to a mental health professional.
4- Jinnat ka asar hai/ Kaala jaadu karwaya hai kisi ne. Pir baba ke paas le jao (This is the work of Jinns/ Someone must have done black magic on you. You should take the patient to a spiritual healer)
This is quite a popular response, given the authority and power faith healers enjoy in our part of the world. Almost every issue is attributed to evil spirits, black magic or the evil eye. This thinking is most popular in rural area or areas with low literacy rates.
5- Pata nahi kya hogaya hai ajkal ki nayi nasal ko. ( I don’t know what has happened to this new generation)
Most elders have their youngsters’ best interests at heart, but SOME among them appear hell-bent upon proving that the younger generation is good for nothing. They attribute even the appearance of mental issues to things like too much TV, cellphone and computer. What they don’t realize is that mental issues are not a new phenomenon. They have always existed, but it is only since the 18th century that the proper study of mental disorders started.
6- Buri sohbat ka asar hoga (It must be an outcome of bad company)
Again, a staple phrase that mental health patients get to hear from their elders. It is true that a strong social circle is a good defence against developing mental disorders. But mental illnesses are not lice that can spreadl from one person to another in a social group.
7- Shadi karwa do, sab theek hojaeyga (Get him/her married. Everything will be alright)
As the joke goes, Pakistani people consider getting married to be the antidote for every problem ranging from having bad luck in business to having some health issue. There are many stories of people getting patients of psychological disorders married in order to cure them, and destroying not one but two lives in the process.
8- Attention lene ke tareeqe hain bas (These are just ways to seek attention)
This is more of a universal response. There are people everywhere who don’t consider psychological disorders to be real illnesses. They view any mental illness as a deliberate act to seek attention from others. Unfortunately, the number of such people is higher in Pakistan than in other countries.
9- Taubah taubah. Sab deen se duri ka nateeja hai ( It is all a result of being distant from religion)
One can almost imagine a strict, ultra-religious aunty or uncle saying this sentence to a group of youngsters. Despite what random Facebook posts would have you believe, mental disorders are not a result of being distant from religion. They can have many causes, including faulty social learning, chemical imbalances in the brain or deep-seated personality issues.
10- Maa baap ne sahi tarbiyat nahi ki hogi ( The parents must not have raised him/her properly)
Being a parent anywhere is a hard enough job, but it’s the hardest in Pakistan. That is because people here tend to blame a person’s parents for his/her every fault and lacking, whether it is intentional or unintentional.
11- Kisi ko batana nahi, warna rishta nahi hoga (Don’t tell anyone, otherwise they won’t get any marriage proposals)
As mentioned above, Pakistanis consider marriage to be the world’s most serious issue. The world may be going to the dogs, but all is well as long as there is a steady stream of rishtas for their son/ daughter. Given most Pakistanis’ lack of awareness about mental disorders, people advise the parents of single people undergoing psychological therapy to keep this fact a secret, lest their marriage prospects be damaged.