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Pakistani Psychiatrists Mourn The Loss Of Their Colleague And Emphasise Why Mental Health Awareness Matters

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Pakistan Psychiatric Society (PPS) mourns the tragic death of their colleague Dr. Azhar Hussain, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, and his daughter Dr. Alizah Azhar, Post-graduate Trainee in Psychiatry. Apparently, Dr. Azhar Hussain was suffering from extreme depression.

“We are all shocked and grieved at this terrible incident which took the lives of two brilliant professionals at a time when our country needed their services the most”, read the PPS Statement on the bereavement.

Pakistan Psychiatric Society, on behalf of our office bearers and members pays our heartfelt condolences to the families of Dr. Azhar Hussain and Dr. Alizah Azhar. We pray that Allah (SWT) accepts their selfless service on behalf of their patients and families and grants sabr to those left behind. They are forever in our hearts.

Dr. Azhar Hussain was a highly respected consultant psychiatrist in Multan and had been practicing for several decades. Dr. Alizah Azhar, a psychiatric trainee and mother of three young children was about to appear in her FCPS II (Clinical) Psychiatry exam.

In addition to the terrible loss to her family, our profession has lost a rising young star in a country where psychiatrists are already in critically short supply.

It further stated: While this incident is tragic, it only serves to highlight the acute crisis of mental health which was already dire before the onset of COVID-19. In the last year, mental health problems have multiplied manifold all over the world. In Pakistan, this is manifested in the rising incidence of common mental illnesses including anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

Alongside this are also rising cases of domestic and workplace violence, crime and violence against the most vulnerable segments of our population including women, children and the poor, lamented PPS.

The Psychiatrist community expressed grave concern over the extreme stress and burnout which all healthcare professionals are facing due to the fall out of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors, nurses and all healthcare professionals are under tremendous pressure both at work and at home.

The statement further noted: Many brilliant and dedicated doctors and healthcare professionals have been lost to COVID-19 and the ongoing second wave of the pandemic is stretching our healthcare resources including the dedicated healthcare heroes to the limit.

In the above limelight, PPS has urged all provincial governments and the Government of Pakistan to make mental health a national priority. It has suggested the following steps to ameliorate the ongoing mental health emergency:

1. Mental health must be provided a separate share in the national health budget commensurate with the existing needs of our population

2. Treatment of mental illness and substance use disorders must be included in the “Sehat Sahulat Program” via ‘Sehat Insaf Cards’.

3. Psychiatric training centers need to be upgraded and enhanced nationally.

4. All THQ and DHQ hospitals must have the services of a psychiatric department with consultant psychiatrists and affiliated mental health professionals working under their supervision available around the clock so patients and their families do not have to travel to large cities to access mental health services.

5. All healthcare professionals and their families including doctors and nurses must be provided access to high quality mental health care round the clock for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

6. A national media awareness campaign about mental health and mental illness should be started immediately to inform the public about these deadly illnesses and their prevention and treatment.

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