Stories about mental illness

Pakistan, I am of you, from you, and no matter where I am, inseparable from you

Once when I was six years old I sneaked out of my grandmother’s house in Lahore’s old Mozang neighbourhood and headed for the nearby Mozang Bazaar, a large market of red-brick shops over a hundred years old. The shops there fascinated me to no end and I was determined to discover kites – my main attraction – of every shape and size. Getting there was no problem as my grandmother’s laane ended in the bazaar itself. Once there though, I lost track of time and my curiosity led me to explore the entire bazaar. At some point I realised I was lost. ...

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The terrorist label: When does an attack become a ‘terrorist’ attack?

Last week, Zakaria Bulhan, a British Somalian teenager, armed with a knife, allegedly killed one person and injured four others in a central London square as passers-by were out enjoying the evening. An ordinary scene of urban serenity was disrupted and panic ensued. However, the British authorities have so far refused to label the incident as a terrorist attack stating that the attack was “spontaneous” and triggered by mental health issues. The labelling of a “terrorist” is a delicate task. It is a deliberate decision taken by those in positions of authority rather than induced by the observations of members ...

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Our minorities, but not our people

Avinash Kumar and Sateesh Kumar; these were the two latest victims of the undeniably worsening trend of minority persecution in Pakistan. Seventeen-year-old Sateesh is dead. The two boys were targeted because the local community was ‘incensed’ by reports that a Hindu man, Amar Lal, had ‘desecrated the Quran’. Since they were Hindus and easy targets, someone in Ghotki saw them as fair game to act out their deeply (and rather easily) offended religious sentiment. This incident is disturbing but not just because of its depraved message of murderous retribution for any perceived ‘blasphemy’. It is also a grim reminder of the lack of sensitivity towards psychiatric illness prevalent in Pakistani society. By the accounts of local Hindus, Amar ...

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‘You’re so bipolar’: Mental illness is not a joke

In an age where obtaining information is as simple as typing a few letters in a search bar and pressing enter, it’s disconcerting to witness the extent of disillusionment when one realises we’re so uneducated in matters of great importance. Mental illness is one of those things. We may live in the 21st century. We may live in a world where automobiles can drive themselves. Yet, as far as mental illnesses go, we may very well be back in the 17th century. The extent to which people are unaware about mental illness is so pervasive, that those who are informed of it are ...

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Should doctors have allowed a sexual abuse victim in her 20s to be euthanised?

If there was ever an instance of discussing the moral grey areas when it came to human morality, this would be it. A woman in Netherlands, in her 20s, was recently given a lethal injection in a case of physician-assisted mercy killing. She was a victim of child sex abuse from the age of five up until the age of 15. She was suffering from severe anorexia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She had multiple problems, said the Dutch Euthanasia Commission, and even though her psychiatric conditions did improve, she had decided to end her life. The arguments pro and against euthanasia ...

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This Saudi therapist teaches husbands how to beat their wives

Saudi Arabia is a kingdom where women aren’t allowed to drive, can’t vote like men, must dress like ninjas, and often take the legal blame if raped. Without permission from their husbands/fathers, they can’t leave the country, can’t open a bank account, can’t obtain a passport, can’t pursue higher education, and more. These laws open Saudi women to abuse. Depending on the luck of the draw, if a Saudi woman ends up with an abusive husband or father (like the Saudi preacher who raped his ‘flirty’ five-year-old daughter to teach her a lesson) she is destined for a life of ...

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America must decide between its people and guns

US politics has taken a nose dive. In the run up to the November 2016 presidential election, public opinion is going crazy. At a time when Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and are hell bent on safeguarding the dreadfully outdated Second Amendment to the US Constitution, we, as a society, are seemingly settled and resigned to our fate. Beyond the 400 or so mass-shootings and over 2000 deaths and injuries just in 2015, the guns are still blazing and there’s no stopping the lunacy. Proponents of the dastardly arms trade say that guns only kill innocent people when ...

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Depression cannot be cured by eating spinach, Zubaida apa!

In Pakistan, issues related to mental health are often stigmatised. Often ridiculed and frequently dismissed, conditions such as clinical depression are rarely addressed with the sensitivity and respect they rightfully deserve. This cavalier attitude is perhaps most obvious in the manner with which our media tackles the issue of mental health. Case in point; a recent episode of the Nadia Khan Show aimed to shed some light on the emotional and physical wellbeing of married women. In line with the pattern of most morning shows, Nadia Khan invited a few guests to discuss the topic at hand. Amongst those invited was Zubaida Tariq, fondly referred ...

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Living with postpartum depression in Pakistan because a woman’s honour depends on it

Earlier this month, we learnt that famous Hollywood actresses Hayden Panettiere and Drew Barrymore are suffering from postpartum depression and it is due to their courage of opening up about their experiences with this acute illness, why the world should start talking about this issue further. And I couldn’t agree more. I agree that the world should not only start, but should have been talking about postpartum depression and the severity of this illness for a long time coming. The illness, depending on its severity, is experienced by women all over the world. Some are fortunate enough to live in places where this illness is ...

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How Sofia, Ahmed and Aliya are silently suffering in Pakistan

Sofia, a young college student, has been missing since she drove off in the morning. Her parents desperately tried to stop her from driving off. She had not been herself lately; behaving erratically and driving rashly the last few weeks. She had been getting into fights with her friends, staying up all night, not eating, and was extremely irritable at home. This behaviour was not new; her family had endured these episodes quite a few times before. They dealt with her anger and moods by confining the entire family at home till things improved. In the past, clandestinely using sleeping ...

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