Life has become so fast-paced and complicated. We all are so self-absorbed and constantly trying to have a better and more satisfying life and stuck in this never ending loop of trying to have the best of everything.
These days we constantly listen to everyone complains about stress and depression and hear news about suicide.
We all fail to realize that it’s okay to feel this way and it’s only natural and each one of us goes through this phase.
Even though so many people these days are facing mental health issues, talking about depression and getting help from a professional psychologist is still considered a taboo.
Mental health is Pakistan’s most neglected field where 10-16 percent of the population, over 14 million, suffers from mild to moderate psychiatric disease, most of which are women.
For every 10,000 people suffering from any of the mental disorders, Pakistan has only one psychiatrist, while for four million children, one child psychiatrist is estimated to have mental health problems.
In a brief encounter, Dr. Aliya Aftab, a psychologist who has completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Hypnotherapy from the National Guild of Hypnosis in California, USA talks about mental health issues and their solutions. Following are the excerpts of the interview.
What inspired you to become a psychologist?
As a child, I liked helping people so my friends would always come to me for help and I would listen to them and do whatever I could. As I grew up I became very interested in the subconscious mind and human behavior.
A turning point came in my life when something personal happened with my father and my sister lost her voice and then I lost someone close and I decided to be a psychologist. It is very interesting how they deal with the body language and the subconscious mind.
I wouldn’t want to do anything else apart from this although my parents wanted different things for me psychology was and always will be my passion.
How do you get your inspiration?
I get my inspiration from several things like from charities and doing social work. I work with special children and I feel very happy to help disabled children who are always neglected in our society.
My inspiration also comes from the fountain house people where I have been going from the last 8 years.
Why do you think people these days are facing mental health problems or are a victim of depression?
Mental health problems are growing day by day in Pakistan because people nowadays are very negative and that stress is very common.
We easily become hyper, we spend all our time on our mobiles and we are constantly competing with other people.
We are not happy and content with our lives. We are not grateful to God and have drifted away from religion. All these things lead to depression. As a nation, we complain all the time which has made us so negative.
How can someone know if they need to seek help from a therapist?
There are a few signs of depression. The first one is stress. Stress is all about past experiences, you have sleepless nights (insomnia) and negative state of mind. You tend to have panic attacks. Another symptom is binge eating (comfort eating) and sleeping more than usual.
If normal situations make you anxious, your heartbeat rises and you hyperventilate it means you are suffering from anxiety. Depression is always about the future as you are over thinking about what is next to come into your lie.
Do you think there needs to be more awareness about mental health issues in Pakistan?
In Pakistan, there are quite a lot of psychologists but people refrain from going to them because they are afraid of being labeled. What people fail to realize is that psychologists are doctors too.
The only difference is that they are doctors of the mind. We need to spread awareness about mental illness because there are many people who don’t know what depression or stress is.
A lot of college students suffer from concentration problems while a lot of people suffer from OCD but they all don’t realize that all these situations cause mental health issues.
The government needs to accept mental health as a problem and talk about it because the more we talk about this subject the more people are going to become open about it.
What do you do in your spare time to relax?
I sometimes do meditation or spend time with family. I also play with my nephew as I believe it’s very therapeutic to play with children. I also think positively and all that helps me to feel relaxed and happy.
What is your advice to people who are unexpressive?
People who are unexpressive suffer a lot because they suppress their feelings; it becomes lava and can explode anytime.
That’s why they are more prone to heart attacks and anxiety problems because they keep on thinking about their problems but not speak up.
My advice for such people is to write it all down so that they let it all out. It’s good to express yourself on paper than to leave something in your subconscious mind.
We encourage a person to write a letter to yourself, it can be about anything like your problems, your thoughts, your emotions, it doesn’t even have to make sense just expressing your state of mind. Then you read the letter out loud and burn it.
What do you think drives a person to such an intense level of depression that they decide to commit suicide and how do you think that can be prevented?
It is the last stage because they feel that this is the end. This is because their faith in God is weak to feel clueless about their life.
They feel completely alone facing this world with no one to help them or care for them or love them.
They become strange and distant, they are isolated and only think of their problems. They even take so many medications that it is difficult for them to survive.
Yes, suicide can be prevented if people seek help from a medical professional.
People need to talk about their problems and face them head on and be strong and positive.
They need to know that there is someone who can help them and suicide is not the solution to anything.
They need to change their mindset and a change from the inside to the outside. Remember that only you can change your destiny, try and make an effort because nothing is impossible