KARACHI - Child Psychiatrist at Aga Khan University Dr Ayesha Mian on Saturday said an estimated 20 million children were suffering from mental disorders in Pakistan, owing to genetic, psychological and social factors.

She said this while addressing journalists at a dialogue on mental health at Karachi Press Club.

The awareness session was organised by Aga Khan University (AKU) in coordination with the KPC Health Committee.

Dr Ayesha Main said approximately 50 million population of Pakistan was suffering from different types of psychological or behavioral disorders out of which 20 million children and 30 million adults were living with mental disorders .

She said one in every five people was suffering mental illness. She said family members, friends and the society in general have a vital role in helping people recover from mental illness.

She said they need positive attitude and acceptance of their conditions. She said studies show that people with mental illness are much more likely to be a victim than a perpetrator.

She said mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions that affect mood, thinking and behavior. She said unfortunately, there are only 300 to 400 trained psychiatrists in the country and means there is roughly one psychiatrist available per half-million people. She described factors that may lead to depression, anxiety and addictive behaviors, and eating disorders - stressful life situations, use of alcohol or recreational drugs, imbalance of a chemical substance in the brain, and genetic disorder or having a blood relative with a mental illness.

 She said depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are some common mental illnesses prevail in the society. She said majority of mental illness are treatable by adopting some preventive measures.  

Dr Mian advised the people to take wise and timely decisions, and take good care along with healthy eating, regular physical activity and sufficient sleep. Avoid conflicts in personal as well as professional life, try to participate in social activities, and get together with family or friends regularly, she added.

Professor of Neurology at AKU Dr Saad Shafqat said a new concept for treatment of people with mental illness has been introduced in AKU by departments of psychiatry, neurology and neuro-surgical to handle such patients effectively.

They believed that media is strong source to convey awareness message to general public therefore media houses must portray mental illness in positive way in order address myths or misconception attached with patients with mental disorders .