Mental illness, laws and a worldview change

Naseer Ahmed, the writer

Mental illness, laws and a world view change

by, Naseer Ahmed

Pakistani laws about mentally ill are quite inadequate. Only Punjab and Sindh have mental health acts.
Besides, it seems laws are designed to protect society from mentally ill as though being mentally ill is some sort of crime. The focus is on detention. They also reflect the general attitude that best solution is to lock the mentally ill away.
Still, laws are better than no laws. And it would be better if other parts of federation make their laws on mental health. And what is wrong in making better and updated laws with a focus on rights of mentally ill?
There is one big problem in Pakistan about laws. We have this anti -law psychology that could turn even the finest pieces of legislation into the tool of exploitation. It just needs a gang of two or three or four to destroy the meanings and purposes of any better legislation. Formulation of a gang for unfair advantages, for immoral personal interests, for disobedience to democratic laws, for sinister purposes, for human rights violation has been easy always in our country.
Mentally ill are one of the most vulnerable group and advocacy for their rights and well being is quite weak. It should have been quite strong because this widespread lawlessness and abuse connected to it is a source of constant mental torture for everybody but what is most needed is often most neglected.
I don’t remember that’ democracy is sweet revenge’ and’ trickledown effect’ and ‘ super science’ even talked about this important issue. The update adopted by Punjab and Sindh is contribution of Musharraf’s legislators.
And this neglect has consequences. ‘There are five mental hospitals available in the country for a total of 1.9 beds per 100,000′.
The authority under this act has many functions to perform but it is tough to know whether it exists or not. One of its functions is to create awareness about mental health among population. All these years, the institutions connected to implementation of this act have not been successful to create awareness about their presence. Well, the current dead man walking in Punjab is not going to adopt a cause which an active show off did not.
Laws are not made to ignore and governments are not elected to be insensitive to public issues. Sadly, we have failed to teach this basic stuff to our people.

This insensitivity to mentally ill also comes from a worldview our society is not ready to challenge. And that worldview has deeper connection to totalitarian ideologies of various types which we refuse to examine but due to those ideologies we have developed a strong disrespect for democratic laws.

It won’t be a good idea to declare 
an ideology based madness a form of mental illness because it would damage redress and all kind of war criminal would use mental illness in order to get away from justice.
However it is a mental issue too. Ideologues tend to behave like as though they are possessed by some demons. They are obsessed with a dangerous worldview and they want to implement it at any cost. They are indifferent to all kind of human rights violation, economic failures, environmental damage, resource abuse, poverty and destruction of life.
And whatever they do ultimately leads to increase mental illness because abuse is quite damaging to mental health. And the ideologues don’t do anything but abuse.
In addition, their wrong ideas and deeds do not let a culture of empathy thrive which means there are no serious efforts at improving mental health services.
Such ideologues set up a kind of regime which makes daily life a kind of psychological torture and most people can’t to do much about this torture. They either or suffer become indifferent which leads them set up their own version of mental torture. Mostly, it becomes a kind of competition of torture among individuals. And the most ruthless types win this psychological torturous social warfare because ultimately extreme forms of psychological torture lead you better products.
Then again, if you are a pharaoh himself, you are not going to enjoy anything properly because torture only gives a kind of sadistic pleasure of doing better than your competitors in this torture warfare.
As far as mental illnesses like depression, schizophrenia and autism are concerned, they become vulnerabilities and a war based culture is all about exploiting and manipulating vulnerabilities.
A bit of sanity is always preserved in spite of such regimes but it a gift of life. There are no serious efforts by regime and its created system to provide relief.
The simple answer is that there is not a single worldview that explains everything. If you are going to accept this simple fact of life, you might end up with a system that could help to prevent widespread mental health problems.
This realization leads to innovation, discovery, creativity, sanity, reason, compassion and logic and all these conditions are quite helpful in providing relief to mental illness.
I mean a better political, social and economic system leads to better attitudes to mental illness.

Therefore we need to bring about some important changes. We need to have better legal mechanism to protect mentally ill and we need to invest a lot in education to promote citizenship, human rights, compassion and  rational and scientific methods. We also need to spend much more on mental health than we currently do.