Hajra, Sanam raise awareness on mental health

The British Asian Trust, a charity founded by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, co-hosted an event with the British Deputy High Commission in Karachi, to promote the importance of mental health awareness and support services in Pakistan. The event, ‘Creating a Shared Agenda for Mental Health’, brought together leading voices, campaigners and experts on mental health in Pakistan, to encourage a national conversation on the mental health crisis. Discussion focused on levels of awareness and service provision and how different stakeholders and organisations can come together to build capacity at scale to tackle the challenges.
Sarah Dunn from the British Asian Trust chaired a panel discussion and was joined by Hajra Khan, Captain of the Pakistan national football team and ambassador of the British Asian Trust; Helen Stokes, Managing Director for Specialist Services at the CareTech Foundation; Dr Ayesha Mian, Child Psychologist and Chair of the Psychiatric Department at Aga Khan University; and Sabrina Dawood, CEO of The Dawood Foundation and Trustee at Dawood Public School. Others attending the event included Sanam Saeed, Pakistani actor and ambassador of the British Asian Trust, and representatives from across government, health, private and sports sectors.
Bringing together these partners from a range of sectors, the event sought to initiate a conversation on mental health and to develop a shared agenda, with the goal of increasing awareness within the country and to encourage the uptake of support services.
Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of the British Asian Trust commented: “Dispelling stigma around
mental health issues is one of the biggest challenges that we face in tackling mental health provision in Pakistan. We are working in partnership with mental health organisations and other key stakeholders to build a country-wide network with the potential to create societal change by shifting attitudes through awareness raising and training, alongside increased service provision.”
The importance of creating a global dialogue on mental health issues was recently brought to light as part of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to Pakistan, where they mentioned the importance of providing mental health support to children in schools.
Mental health issues are on the rise globally and are critically under-resourced in South Asia. Without appropriate support, mental health conditions can significantly worsen a person’s wellbeing and their ability to bring in an income and maintain relationships. Mental health issues can lead to loss of employment, alcohol and drug dependency, hospitalisation and even suicide – with a knock-on effect on a nation’s economy. In Pakistan, levels of depression and anxiety have risen in recent years. With a population of over 200 million people, there are approximately just 400 psychiatrists and 500 psychologists in the whole country.
Hajra Khan, British Asian Trust ambassador commented: “As someone who experienced mental health
challenges myself, I am delighted to be an ambassador for the British Asian Trust, encouraging others to speak up. As demonstrated today, creating a platform and bringing together and collaborating with organisations from different walks of life helps to bring the issue to the forefront.”
Sanam Saeed, British Asian Trust ambassador also commented: “I have been supporting the British
Asian Trust’s mental health work for a few years and am excited to witness the impact that this is having in Pakistan. It is really important for people who have a platform to speak out on issues such as mental health to raise awareness and make conversations on the subject more acceptable and less taboo.”
Earlier this year the British Asian Trust signed a landmark, three-year partnership with the Pakistan Cricket Board to harness the profile of the board and the voice of Pakistani cricketers in raising awareness of mental health in the country and getting conversations started.
Mike Nithavrianakis, British Deputy High Commissioner said: “The Economic burden of mental health issues to a country can be alarmingly high, leading to productivity losses as people experience and recover from mental health. Taking care of people’s mental wellbeing is therefore critical for the functioning of communities, workplaces and countries. To ensure that this is addressed adequately, we need to ensure that mental health is seen as a priority across all sectors.
In UKinPakistan network, we give a high importance to the wellbeing of our staff from mastering stress to mindfulness and from emotional first aid to the science of happiness.”
Dr Ayesha Mian, Child Psychologist and Chair of the Psychiatric Department at Aga Khan University
said: “The work that the British Asian Trust and its partners are undertaking on mental health in Pakistan is helping to make great progress and really change the conversation in the country. There is a still a lot of work to do in building the support networks and services that are needed to make mental health support more accessible and affordable for those that need it most.”

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