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Citizen Voices

Are Illiterate Women More Prone To Depression?

Anam Malik talks about depression and its impact on the health and well-being of women in Pakistan, especially on illiterate women, who fail to understand this issue due to lack of knowledge and awareness.

Depression among Pakistani women is proliferating at an alarming rate. According to a study conducted on depression and social stress in Pakistan, “there is reasonable consistency in the reported prevalence of depressive and anxiety disorders in different third world countries, though the prevalence in women in Pakistan is higher.”

It is affecting the lives of innumerable individuals and ruining the balance of many families as well. Among many other reasons like social stress, birth problems, early age marriages etc, female illiteracy is a major reason behind soaring depression ratio among our women; its root cause being lack of awareness.

Pakistan’s overall literacy rate remains static at 58 per cent. The literacy rate of males is 70 per cent while it is 48 per cent for women. Due to their low literacy levels, women are unable to read books and strengthen their minds. Rather they get involved in gossips and other insignificant activities. Therefore, they can’t communicate effectively with their families (educated children and spouses) and friends. They cannot help their children in studies. which sometimes increases the gap between them and their children. This ultimately results in inferiority complex among them. They are also unable to keep up with modern technology.

Above all, women suffering from depression fail to comprehend this serious disease and rather than getting proper treatment, they fall prey to more health issues, including self-medication.

According to an article, titled ‘Road to Literacy’ published in Business Recorder: “Literacy provides an individual considerable health benefits. Illiterate individuals have more workplace accidents, take longer to recover and more often misuse medication through ignorance of health care resources and because they have trouble reading and understanding the relevant information (warnings, dosage, contraindications, etc.).”

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In fact, consulting a psychiatrist is an insult for women because visiting a psychiatrist for mental health issues is still a taboo in our society.

Dr Saima Qureshi, secretary for the Pakistan Association for Mental Health (PAMH), illustrates this point by saying: “Research suggests that every fourth house in Pakistan has occupants who suffer from some form of mental health issue. A research found depression to be equivalent to blindness or paralysis of the lower limbs, whereas psychosis was equated to paralysis of all four limbs.”

Without educating our women, we cannot fight this disease as women play a significant role in upholding a family, grooming their children and forming a sustainable society. A depressed mother or sister affects the entire family, thus, giving way to more societal problems like suicides.

We should not turn a blind eye to the significance of mental health. “Families and communities must openly accept that mental illnesses like other illnesses are just as fatal, and require medical and psychological intervention,” says Aine Moorad, Member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada.

Depression is a disease and in order to fight it effectively, we must educate our women to make them aware of the symptoms of depression and ways to counter it.

Depression also attacks during pre-pregnancy/post-pregnancy span and those unaware of this fact may experience long-term health issues. Illiteracy and depression are closely related. We must accept this and feel no shame in asking for psychiatric help.

“Sad hurts, but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.”

(J.K. Rowling)


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