Home Mental Health & Well-Being Allirajah Subaskaran: Reducing Stigma About Mental Health in Pakistan

Allirajah Subaskaran: Reducing Stigma About Mental Health in Pakistan

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Allirajah Subaskaran is the founder and chairman of Lyca Group, a conglomerate of companies operating in multiple industries including telecommunications, healthcare, financial services, marketing, travel, hospitality, media and entertainment.

Allirajah Subashkaran is a committed philanthropist, having co-founded the Gnanam Foundation with his wife, Prema Subaskaran and his mother, Gnanambikai Allirajah. Mr Subaskaran also serves on the Advisory Council for Sri Lanka for the British Asian Trust, a charity founded by His Majesty King Charles III and a group of British Asian business leaders in 2007 with the aim of tackling poverty, injustice and inequality in South Asia.

This article will look at the British Asian Trust’s recent partnership with the Mir Khalil ur Rahman Foundation in launching the Milkar campaign, an initiative designed to tackle mental health issues in Pakistan.

The British Asian Trust is a registered UK charity and international development organisation that delivers high-quality programming across South Asia. Since its creation, the trust’s work has impacted almost 12 million people across South Asia including those living in Pakistan, where mental health and livelihoods have been affected for decades.

The British Asian Trust aims to transform Pakistan’s mental health landscape by raising awareness and destigmatising the topic of mental health; promoting accessible, affordable services for all; and building coalitions of support to drive change.

The Mir Khalil ur Rahman Foundation engages in advocacy initiatives, leveraging social media channels to create public awareness. The foundation delivers solutions to the most pressing and important national issues in Pakistan, campaigning to change mindsets and behaviour on issues relating to health, women’s empowerment, education, governance, regional peace, anti-women laws, etc.

The British Asian Trust and Mir Khalil ur Rahman Foundation organised a special ceremony to unveil their collaboration. At the launch, Kamyla Marvi Tapal, director of the British Asian Trust Pakistan, indicated that 50 million people in Pakistan experience mental health issues, equating to 20% of the country’s population. Not only are health facilities in the country inadequate, but many Pakistani’s are hesitant to seek help for mental health problems due to a lack of awareness, combined with the stigma surrounding the subject.

Kamyla Marvi Tapal said that the British Asian Trust was delighted to partner in this countrywide campaign with the Mir Khalil ur Rahman Foundation, expressing her confidence that it would join people together, helping to spread the message and engendering kindness, empathy and compassion to those who may be suffering.

The 12-month-long Milkar campaign was created with three broad objectives:

  • To promote self-care, care of family and community mental health
  • To raise awareness and reduce stigma surrounding the topic of mental health in Pakistan
  • To promote access to mental health caregivers and professionals

The Mir Khalil ur Rahman Foundation’s managing director, Shahrukh Hana, pointed out that the charity has a track record of campaigning on issues of great national importance, adding that the foundation felt privileged to partner with the British Asian Trust on the Milkar mental health campaign. Shahrukh Hana expressed the charity’s hope that the campaign would remove the stigma attached to mental health issues, enabling family and friends to have honest and important conversations so that people can get the support they need.

Around the world today, some 300 million people are affected by depression, while 60 million are affected by bipolar disorder and 23 million by schizophrenia. Research suggests that in Pakistan one in three adults suffers with depression and anxiety, with three out of four Pakistani’s affected by stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite these worrying statistics, there are a significant lack of mental health resources in Pakistan, with less than 500 psychiatrists to serve the whole country – equating to a rate of one psychiatrist per half a million citizens, one of the world’s lowest rates of mental health care provision.

In Pakistan, few people report mental health issues, largely due to a lack of public awareness, combined with the stigma that surrounds the subject of mental ill-health. People are simply not aware of the signs and signals of mental health problems. As a result of a lack of education, citizens are ill-equipped to recognise basic behavioural red flags. In addition, stigma often attaches to both patients and their family and friends, making people embarrassed and even afraid to seek help for a mental health problem.

The objectives of the Milkar campaign are to increase awareness and threat perception about mental health problems to the level of ‘National Health Emergency’, raising involvement, awareness and urgency. The Milkar campaign aims to help facilitate early detection of mental health problems, improving outcomes through early intervention, building momentum surrounding the problem and changing mindsets.

Ultimately, the collaboration between the British Asian Trust and Mir Khalil ur Rahman Foundation was launched to unite Pakistan and its policymakers and citizens in efforts to understand and combat mental ill-health – helping people living with mental health problems to access the help they need and reducing the prevalence and negative impact of mental health disorders on individuals, families, communities and Pakistan as a whole.

Tim Williamson, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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