Introducing a New Concept: Mental Health Support in Northwestern Pakistan
“I still remember there was a big bomb blast in April 2010, about 300 meters [about 984 feet] away from our hospital. Within a few minutes, dozens of injured patients were already outside the emergency room. We needed to quickly identify who needed to be attended first,” recalls Dr. Muhammad Zaher, who is working with Doctors Without Borders as assistant medical focal person in Timergara, in the Lower Dir district of northwestern Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province.
Mental health services are scarce in Pakistan, and Lower Dir is no exception. There are very few psychologists for the district’s estimated population of 1.2 million people. Indeed, the MSF team in Lower Dir knows of only one.
In response to this situation, MSF started providing mental health counseling and psychosocial support in the hospital in February 2012.
The mental health team is made up of both male and female staff. They provide individual and group counseling to patients referred from the mother-and-child health department, the emergency department, and the post-operative wards.
Photo: An MSF staff member and a young patient in the triage area of the DHQ hospital in Timergara
Pakistan 2012 © P.K. Lee/MSF