“I have always been a caretaker.
Growing up was always about being responsible and taking care of people around me. I was a very complying child and not very carefree. It was much later when I found myself going into Psychology as a career that I was able to work through all my emotions and understand myself better.
My self awareness journey started when I went to college abroad. It was the first time in my life I only had to think about myself. One thing I learnt was that I was really passionate about making a change of the social impact kind. My father has always been a great promoter of philanthropy and giving back which has had a deep influence in my life. He always said we need people to come back and do good work in Pakistan. I came home to Karachi every summer and winter during those 4 years and interned in places related to my degree (which was Psychology). That is when I realised I wanted a career in metal health. I quickly realised that there isn’t much understanding about mental health in the world. I remember one place I was interning at asked me to make a presentation about mental health awareness for families of patients they housed. It really hit me hard how knowledge, even the basic kind, is lacking in society about this issue.
The problem with mental health isn’t just the fact that people suffer from this condition. Even if they are cured and become healthy again, they are forever regarded as ‘damaged’ by society and are not given the opportunity to have a normal life again. No one hires them because they feel they will relapse or are too scared to take the chance, even if the person is completely recovered. This is how I ended up Co-Founding CARE FOR HEALTH where we actually go further than just therapy and try to link organisations that are willing to hire recovered patients and help them regain control of their life.
I remember our pilot project was us taking on 5 people who had been rehabilitated and trying to place them in proper jobs. There was this one client whose family had abandoned him at the rehab institution. They all lived in different parts of the world and basically just forgot about him. I rehabilitated him myself and he recovered well and good - I saw immense potential in him. Prior to his condition he had worked as a data entry officer but he had a passion for gardening that he wanted to pursue. I remember he and I got into a cab and went to CBC and got a job for him and up until then we had had many doors shut in our faces- no one wanted to hire a rehabilitated person, but this man at CBC was very supportive and agreed to hire him. We were so excited! We got approval from the institution he was at that he could leave, go to work and come back - I thought this was definitely going to be a success story for us but then the hospital told us that we have to get consent from his family before they allow him to do this. They said if the family returns for him they can’t be held liable to have allowed him to leave the institution since they were paying for his stay there. We spent the next few months trying to contact his family but did not hear back from any of them. Finally they did respond but it was with a strict NO. They said they thought he was a danger to society. I couldn’t convince them that he was completely recovered and could henceforth lead a normal life.
My client was extremely disheartened.
Eventually this institution could no longer host him so they shifted him to another shelter. At the other shelter he caught a disease and then one day I was told that he passed away.
It was a bit later that I learnt that there is a mental health law which states that a person cannot be institutionalised against their will. I wish I had had the resources to have discovered this sooner, we would have definitely fought this.
The other clients from that pilot project went on to work as tea boys, bank officers, chartered accounting trainees and our following pilots had success stories too- But I always think back about this case and how this one human being was deprived of his chance to start a fresh new life.
I think the need of the hour in Pakistan is for us is to recognise that mental health issues are real and that any one of us can develop them. We are ALL at risk. It is not just a biological disease- it is environmental. We should learn from the past- like the Nazi genocide of psychiatric patients that happened. It is considered the greatest criminal act in the history of psychiatry. They systematically killed individuals with schizophrenia because they thought it was an inherited disease that they could eliminate. It is a known fact Schizophrenia increased in Germany post war.
You can’t eliminate the problem like that, I feel we are not aware of this as much as we should be and it’s time to change that.
UPVOTE COMMENT AND RESTEEM