ISLAMABAD -To initiate an effort against malpractice and the lack of regulation in mental health facilities in Pakistan, the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with the civil society organization ‘Taskeen.’ The NCHR and Taskeen will be working together on mental health and human rights, including mental health promotion and advocacy. They plan to work to improve the regulation of mental health services to ensure that patients are protected and their rights are upheld. They will launch a public advocacy campaign to promote mental health and reduce the stigma associated with mental health at the community, provincial and national levels. They will also be publishing a report on the state of mental health services and facilities in Pakistan and will provide policy recommendations to lawmakers. The NCHR recently received a complaint regarding the violation of human rights at a mental health facility. The Commission immediately initiated an investigation, which is still ongoing. NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha has expressed deep concern about malpractice and the lack of regulation in mental health in Pakistan,” she said.

Poverty, war, compromised education, ill-health and gender inequality are both a cause and consequences of poor mental health in Pakistan. Estimates show that approximately a quarter of Pakistanis suffer from mental health disorders and over 80 per cent of those remain untreated.

People suffering from mental health conditions are often unable to advocate for themselves or access mental health treatment and services, especially if they are unable to utilize their full mental capacities. Those with mental health conditions are also particularly vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse.

International human rights norms have incorporated mental health as a human rights issue. The annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights explains that those who suffer from invisible disabilities like mental health conditions are also far more likely to suffer from declining physical health. Their life expectancy is 15-20 years less than the general population.

“Pakistan has no comprehensive mental health plan or affective mental health policy,” said NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha. “While the provinces have Mental Health Acts, they remain unimplemented. Currently, there is no mental health legislation in Islamabad. Mental health establishments, facilities, and practitioners remain unregulated and unchecked.”