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The Killid Group

Mentally ill but not insane

Written by Maryam Akbari
Saturday, 26 February 2011 11:49

Mentally ill but not insane

About 60 percent of the Afghan population is suffering from mental and psychological problems. Women have little or no access to treatment and rehabilitation services. Physical violence and absolute poverty are the main causes.
The number of female patients seeking treatment at the Mental Diseases and Addiction Rehabilitation Center (MDARC) in Kabul has increased markedly over the past one year, officials reported.
"We have admitted more than 5,844 female patients so far this year," said Timor Shah Mosamim, director of the Center, adding that less than 5,400 patients had sought treatment a year before. "At least 494 patients had to be hospitalized for longer term treatment and rehabilitation."
Marzia, 42, an in-bed patient said she was first diagnosed as a mental patient 17 years ago. "I lost my two brothers in the war after which I had a severe headache for a long time. As my illness persisted, I started beating myself until I was feeling relaxed," she told Killid from her bed. "This is the fourth time I am being hospitalized here. Each time I get better here and doctors discharge me, but when I return to the normal life, the disease returns."
Another patient, who preferred anonymity, said her husband was treating her harshly and that their economic situation was also bad. "Doctors have told me that both domestic violence and poverty are the causes of my illness," she said.

Mentally ill, not crazy
More than three decades of unrelenting armed conflicts, prevalent poverty, widespread gender-based domestic violence, strong social discriminations and a lack of access to adequate healthcare services have resulted in a staggering rise in the mental diseases among Afghan women. Officials in the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) estimate about 60 percent of the Afghan population (over 15 million people) are suffering from different kinds of mental and psychological problems. Given their poor socio-economic status and their greater exposure to physical and emotional violence, women are believed to be particularly vulnerable to the mental hazards.
About nine million Afghans (36 percent of the population) are living in absolute poverty which is considered a major cause for the emotional and psychological stress and disorder, according to Shakir Kargar, an MoPH spokesman.  "Women make 73 percent of the poor," he told Killid.
Nasir Ahmad Azizi, an expert at the MDARC, said in other countries mental illnesses were mostly linked to different natural causes but that in Afghanistan physical violence and socio-economic pressures is driving people to mental diseases.
Health experts say, in addition to tackling domestic violence and improving peoples' living conditions, mental diseases could also be reduced through improved public awareness. "Some people think that the mentally ill people are crazy and insane which is completely wrong. Mental diseases can be easily treated as other diseases," said Ainuddin Maroof, a psychology lecturer at the Kabul Medical University.
Some specialists, meanwhile, said there was a lack of adequate psychiatrists and other technical resources which exacerbate the plight of the mentally ill people.
"The MDARC in Kabul has only 60 beds of which 40 are for men and only 20 are for women," said Nasir Ahmad Azizi adding that there was need for more beds for the female patients.


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