Pakistan as a country stands out in the global arena due to its peculiar position. We are third in the entire world in anxiety related illnesses. It is no surprise looking at what this nation has been through with the Afghan war, terrorism, earthquakes, floods, injustice, corruption etc. More than 40 percent of the FATA population are affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), with similar or higher figures from the rest of Pakistan. When mentally affected we are as if we are blind; as were the spectators of the Sialkot and Mardan lynching, when our thoughts are affected we become crippled like a quadriplegic, unable to move; the state of every Pakistani who knows wrong innately, but feels totally helpless to move. It is alarming. We fail to notice it because we are used to this state of apathy. We are bystanders when rules are broken; we allow criminal activity and detach ourselves from the situation knowingly. It is time to address this and work actively on solutions. But first we have to heal. The question is are we ready? The biggest obstacle is our state of denial; we have one of the highest rates of drug addiction, child molestation, yet our thought process is illogical and visiting a psychologist or psychiatrist is stigmatised.

Even globally the figures for mental illnesses are mind boggling. One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders in their lifetime. With 450 million people currently suffering, mental health is the leading cause of disability in the world. Read that again; it is the leading cause of disability in the world. Not heart disease, not cancer, but mental illness of the sort you and I as normal functioning people experience which cripples us from our normal life. The difference is that the world is facing this challenge. WHO and nation states recognise the impact and are gearing up for this. But what about us, the guniea pigs who are used as testing material for all kinds of psychological warfare, are we ready to take up this challenge? Many smart states recognise Pakistan’s victimisation in this entire drama and see some of their own problems with roots here. As welfare states they are ready to fund centres of neurosciences and train our people to deal with these challenges. But will we take up this challenge? Let’s not repeat history; Field Marshal Ayub Khan who arranged the breakthrough of Americans with the Chinese was asked by Henry Kissinger if America could do something in return, he gracefully declined while Nehru in the same position asked for universities and transfer of education.

Pakistan has been on the hit list of every intelligence agency in the world; psychological techniques to dehumanise, traumatise and confuse our people via heroes of other causes like Altaf Hussain, Shahzain Bugti, Mahmood Achakzai, Molana Fazalur Rehman, venerable Asif Zardari sb, and the virtuous Sharifs of Jati Umara have played their orchestrated roles. The alarming aspect is that every day our children are being prepared for fifth generation warfare against the state via indiscriminate use of information technology with no filters, videogames to dehumanise, media to develop anti state propaganda, development of child pornography, exploitation on the name of blasphemy, acts of violence against women and other religions; our minds are manipulated by media and now overwhelmed by social media. Just because something is trending on twitter we must be part of it. It is sad to see single women in restaurants making strange faces and angles because they are taking selfies for their facebook or insta accounts; totally oblivious to the world they are surrounded by. We are all aware how people live in the same house and even share the same room but have no insight into each other’s mental state because they no longer interact in the physical state; everything is via a screen, be it telephone, ipad , computer or another device. In this multipronged onslaught we are like sitting ducks unless we take some well thought out actions with short term deliverables and long term plans.

My work with people with disability in Pakistan has convinced me the so called ‘normal population’ of our country is mentally sick because most lack basic honesty, empathy and the ability to think. Particularly horrifying is the propensity of young people to lie; it is their clear preference over truth in every situation. Shocking and disturbing. Conversely those we call physically or mentally challenged are actually honest, humane, helpful and therefore mentally in the right and healthy zone.

So what is the way forward? What should we do? There are some quick wins for the government here if they link up with the right people to make suitable plans. Set up centres of leadership with emphasis on neurobiological sciences. The world of artificial intelligence is at the forefront now. Most importantly making a plan with all aspects covered. There are special techniques which need to be propagated to combat the mental sickness in society. A comprehensive way forward to combat and preempt the psychological warfare on our minds; this will enhance our credibility and move us towards our goals of a peaceful welfare state.

I wonder if anyone’s listening?

 

The writer is a socio-political activist and practicing consultant aesthetic dermatologist.

 Zarqataimur@gmail.com