A seminar was organised in the University of Faisalabad to mark the World Mental Health Day 2013.

On the occasion, Chief guest Dr Faqir Hussain Khan said that Islamic teachings stress the respect of parents at any cost. It was this family network in which old aged parents are taken care by their offspring as a religious duty, he added. Hence the issue of older people having mental disorder was more common in Western culture. However he appreciated the senior citizen homes by the governments and care provided to older people there. “If we respect our elders in return we will also get respect from our children,” he said.

Dr Sumera Shahzad highlighted the issue “Mental Health and Older Adults”. According to World Health Organisation the proportion of world population over 60 years of age will double between 2000 and 2050, from around 11% to 22%, she added.

In the keynote address, Dr Zahid Masood, Head Department of Community Medicine, University Medical & Dental College, said that depression was the most common mental illness found in older people and the second commonest single underlying cause for all GP consultations for people over 70 years of age in developed countries. Recent research has shown that depression, anxiety disorders, and psychosis are more common than previously supposed in elderly populations without dementia. Clinical expression of psychiatric disorders in old age may be different from that seen in younger age groups, with less and often milder symptoms, he added.

He further said that psychiatric disorders in the elderly are often related to cerebral neuro degeneration and cerebrovascular disease, although psychosocial risk factors were also important. Psychiatric disorders, common among the elderly, have consequences that include social deprivation, poor quality of life, cognitive decline, disability, increased risk for somatic disorders and suicide, Dr Masood added. Mental disorders are among the risk factors for communicable and non-communicable diseases. He referred to studies conducted among elderly population in Karachi which revealed that prevalence of depression was found to be 40.6 percent.

Depression is more prevalent in female population. Another study reflected that 25% of women suffer from depression during pregnancy. Women in Pakistan often face domestic violence as well as restriction in equal rights, particularly in rural settings which leads to various psychiatric disorders. As per a study conducted in KPK in 2011, all nurses (100%) in the study had anxiety and depression in the face of terrorism, he further added.

Talking about the common causes of psychiatric disorders in Pakistan, Dr Masood said that insecurity, poverty violence, terrorism, economical problems unemployment, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill health, genetic factors, gender discrimination break down of protective family networks rapid unrestricted urbanization and  stressful working conditions are causes of mental disorders.

He also mentioned a research study at Harvard University published in July- 2013 which revealed that drinking coffee every day appears to reduce the risk of suicide in men and women by 50 percent. A new study says that low levels of serotonin, or decrease in serotonin receptors in the brain, is responsible for onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

He said that low levels of serotonin can cause depression, sometimes severe depression. Speaking about the preventive strategies, Dr Masood said that efforts must be made to prevent violence, substance abuse. Early intervention for mental illness should be made and mental wellbeing of the elderly in Pakistan needs to be given consideration in the health policy of the country. Spiritual aspect of health must be taken care like following Islamic teachings. Communication social mobilisation and advocacy remains the key to success, he added.