As part of Mental Health Awareness Week (13th-17th May), the CareTech Foundation has asked five individuals close to the Foundation to contribute their thoughts on Mental Health and the work of our Partners in relation to it.
Today’s writer is CareTech Foundation CEO, Jonathan Freeman.
Mental Health Awareness Week offers a fantastic opportunity to increase understanding about mental health issues, helping to tackle stigma and letting people know where to turn for help. All too often mental health goes unheeded, overlooked and ignored, leaving millions to suffer in silence.
At the CareTech Foundation, we’ve been working to change that as part of our commitment to improving the lives of communities in need. A number of the partnerships we fund are targeted at tackling mental health issues, in the UK and abroad.
In Pakistan, for example, an estimated 50 million people are struggling with mental health issues but the country lacks the care and support services that are desperately needed. That’s why we at the CareTech Foundation have formed a £1 million partnership with the British Asian Trust and our colleagues at the COSARAF Foundation to improve both the clinical and non-clinical services available to people, as well as promoting greater understanding about the importance of mental health.
In Pakistan, there are just over 400 psychiatrists to serve a population of 200 million, but that’s not the only problem. Too often mental health issues are dismissed or misunderstood, and a significant part of our work is intended to raise awareness, reduce stigma and offer a route to recovery.
Last December and again this January, I visited Pakistan to see the programme in action and was inspired by what I saw. People with complex but treatable conditions are now being helped back onto their feet, when previously they would have had little to no support. There are some great organisations doing stunning work on which we can build to deliver the step change in provision required.
Living with mental health issues can be a huge strain on individuals, but it also has knock-on effects on their family, their friends and wider society. Tackling this widespread problem has the potential not just to improve individual lives, but also to help the economy and promote prosperity. Beyond the immediate aims of the programme, I really hope that those in authority across relevant sectors in Pakistan will recognise the importance of systemic change so as to put mental health services at least on a par with clinical health services.
I am proud that the CareTech Foundation has been able to play its part alongside the British Asian Trust in bringing about what I hope will be the beginning of a revolution in the way mental health is treated in Pakistan. This is not about quick fixes but I am confident that the programme will come to be a seen as a significant catalyst for major long-term positive change in Pakistan – and beyond.