Mithi: (Wednesday, 27th January 2021) Whereas Sindh’s 20 out of 30 districts do not have mental health services provision, one of the most unprivileged districts, Tharparkar has taken lead to initiate by providing sustained mental health services in the district through a network of the health workforce.

The services will connect mental health patients with health practitioners at various levels through a network of lady health workers working across Tharparkar villages.

This is being done for the first time in Pakistan which has touched the most sensitive and untouched health services areas and Tharparkar has taken the lead to launch it, this was announced by the Chairman of the Sindh Mental Health Authority (SMHA), Senator Dr. Karim Khawaja during a concluding ceremony of 3-day training workshop on ‘Telehelp Services on Mental Health’ held here on Wednesday.

Dr. Khawaja said that is a multi-stakeholder partnership between SMHA, Thar Foundation, Health Dept. Govt of Sindh, Civil Hospital Mithi, Sir Cowasjee Institute of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences Hyderabad (SCIPBS) and Liaquat University of Medical & Health Licenses (LUMHS).

He said they will launch first-ever data on the state of mental health in Sindh next month which will reveal astonishing figures on the issue.

“Mental health service is the less attentive area across Pakistan, which needs immediate attention. Currently, he added, Sindh’s 20 districts have no specialist physiatrists working in the public sector.”

Dr. Gordhan Das, District Health Officer (DHO) of Tharparkar, said this initiative will help to gather mental health trends on regular basis and curb the disturbing trend of increasing suicides in Tharparkar by providing proactive counseling/treatment services to identified patients.

He said Health Department will continue to provide its infrastructure and community health workforce for training and counseling services and provision of medicines and supplies to vulnerable patients.

Mohsin Babbar of Thar Foundation said the spike in suicide cases in Thar led to this partnership which is aimed at providing free of cost psychiatric/counseling/treatment services, follow-up, free medicines to identified patients under a one-year pilot project utilizing the already working health workforce of the district.

The Telehelp service will contribute by setting up counseling services in the local language through a trained health workforce and qualified practitioners, a mobile app for monitoring and reporting of vulnerable cases, and other logistical support and referring seriously ailing patients to district headquarters and Hyderabad if required.

“SMHA is acting as a coordinating and lynchpin partner in the achievement of the aims of the project and has established Thar Telehelp health services connecting Talukas of Thar with a panel of specialist psychiatrists,” he added.

Dr. Gul Muneer Vistro, Medical Superintendent Civil Hospital Mithi said Tharparkar is among very districts of Sindh where they have established a dedicated ward with a specialist providing dedicated health care services to 600 patients a month.

Dr. Yousaf Kunbhar, Director of Health Services Mirpurkhas assured Health Department’s full support to provide free medical aid to ailing patients. Tharparkar is considered as one of the districts of Sindh were cases of suicides at the rise due to a variety of psychosocial and socioeconomic reasons, he said.

Dr. Bharat Kumar, Incharge Psychiatry Ward Mithi said the increasing trend of suicides in the district warranted urgent attention as he deals with very serious patients who have tendencies to attempt suicide.

He was of the view that mental health patients need to be treated at a very early stage adopting a modern approach so that they should not take the extreme steps of attempting and committing suicide.

Mental Health experts Dr. Jamil Junejo and Public Health specialist Dr. Gulzar Usman also addressed trainees of the workshop and oriented them on how to handle ailing patients. At the end of the workshop, the chief guest of the workshop distributed certificates among the participating trainees.