Psychological First Aid is a modular approach to reduce initial distress-Farid Aslam Minhas


 World Mental Health Day Meeting at BBH Rawalpindi

Psychological First Aid is a modular approach
to reduce initial distress-Farid Aslam Minhas

Community participation is essential to improve mental healthcare

By Dr. Yousaf Raza

RAWALPINDI: The Institute of Psychiatry, WHO Collaborating Centre for Mental Health Training and Research, Benazir Bhutto Hospital organized a meeting to celebrate the World Mental Health Day.  The speakers included Prof. Malik H. Mubbashar, Prof. Farid Aslam Minhas, Prof. Mowadat H. Rana and others. This year's theme was “Psychological & Mental Health First Aid for all". As part of our daily lives we may inevitably encounter individuals who have experienced traumatic sufferings. Learning the basic principles of psychological first aid will help us provide support to these individuals, and importantly, to know what not to say. This served as the focal point for all talks.

Speaking at the occasion Prof Malik Hussain Mubbashar former VC of UHS and a noted psychiatrist said that the community efforts to provide mental health care are dying. School mental health needs to be revived. Mental health is too important for psychiatrists alone. When "All for Mental Health" becomes a practical reality then situation for mental illnesses will change. He also referred to his efforts as VC UHS to get Behavioral Sciences mandated in every course of MBBS across the country. The world will get hope for mental health from the efforts in the East. He concluded his talk with motivational verses of poetry encouraging budding psychiatrists to selflessly carry the torch forward.

Institute of Psychiatry, BBH Rawalpindi celebrated the World Mental Health Day recently. Picture shows
Prof. Malik. Mubbashar, Prof. Farid Aslam Minhas, Prof. Mowadat H. Rana and
speaking at the occasion.

Prof. Farid Aslam Minhas in his welcome address spoke of his insights from his own clinical experience of working with mental health patients. He enlightened the audience about the basic theme in the humanitarian context. A vast majority of mentally ill, he said,  don't get mental health care. He alluded to how the population in Pakistan of 180 million people is rapidly growing for which the health budget is 1%, which is the lowest in region. Of this 1%, 0.4 % goes to mental health.

Talking about the Psychological First Aid (PFA) Guide he said that it was an evidence based modular approach to reduce initial distress and foster short-terms and long term problems. It was not meant only for professionals and that it is not professional counselling. The main principles revolve around "Look", "Listen", and "Link", he added. To preclude the chaos that happens every time a disaster strikes, we got together with colleagues and developed certain principles and instruments. However they did not get translated into policies which is traumatic for us at the twilight of our careers. He also referred to training for students at RMC, other health professionals and allied hospitals and for other Educational institutions it was in the pipeline, he remarked.

 Prof. Mowadat Hussain Rana  started his presentation by showing an illustration of how the newborn despite his 100 billion neurons is completely dependent, and how through looking, listening, and linking in the  society the neurons interact with one another to develop into the brain of successful human beings. This is what PFA is all about, he said. Those who are struck directly by a trauma are not the only ones in need of PFA. A trauma always has a ripple effect and impacts even those who merely hear about it. Extreme end of this ripple stand the mental health professionals. Yet, there are those who are going to be clinically effected. Those most vulnerable for this, he said, are the marginalized people, the injured, the needy, those on the extremes of age, female gender, those in the midst of the trauma, those who experienced childhood adversities, etc. He then emphasized the attitudes in the one looking to provide PFA, or any other psychological help for that matter. The one who is effected is extremely sensitive to others, he said, so the dignity of the person is to be respected. The needs of the individual are to be identified and addressed. Patient’s confidentiality needs to be respected.  Finally he stressed the importance of self-care of the care-provider, in spiritual, emotional, and physical domains.

Dr. Shamsa Zafar said we usually ignore mental health when looking at maternal health.  Maternal psychosocial wellbeing is important for motherhood.  About 30-50% women in Pakistan have mental illness. If mother is depressed then the children suffer physically and emotionally. She highlighted the importance of non-specialists stepping in to look after these patients. She stressed the importance of Training community health workers and highlighted different models tried in Swat.

Others who spoke on the occasion included Mr. Amar Masood and Mr. Ray Asghar. The programme was moderated by Dr. Sundaes, Senior Resident at the Institute of Psychiatry.(PR)