It’s due time we talk about Mental Health
In Pakistan, an estimate of more than 50 million people suffer from a mental illness. (Source: The News)
Mental illnesses can include, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder and more.
Over the years, despite the high prevalence of mental disorders, the topic of mental health/illness remained taboo. Either people were in denial or never took it seriously. But now, recently, there have been campaigns, awareness on mental health, which has led to people realizing its importance. More people are now than previously, are resorting to seeking professional help from therapists and psychologists without fear of being judged and ‘log kia kahen gay‘
It is refreshing to witness Pakistani dramas lead the way on this front, having shed the over-done saas bahu storyline and exploring other (more meaningful) themes; mental health. Here are a few dramas that need to be lauded for introducing content that resonated with audiences.
1. Yeh Dil Mera
This psychological thriller raises awareness on PTSD (for both Aina and Amaan). Both characters, have experienced trauma and tragedy, in earlier stages of life and even with time, their trauma stayed, and shaped their personalities.
Aina sees a psychiatrist but, like typical Pakistani parents, Agha Jan (Adnan Siddiqui) sees this as a taboo no-go area, and is subsequently schooled by the psychiatrist, on how seeing a therapist is not crazy.
“The real matter of concern is childhood trauma. This issue is not with just Aina but also with my third character, the very dark and shady Amaan. He too has psychological issues and he is playing mind games with Aina. He is trying to lure the innocent, overprotected girl towards him while neglecting her at the same time.” (source Hum TV)Farhat Ishtiaq, writer Yeh Dil Mera
Sabaat, the recent hit, highlights the issue to Narcissitic Personality Disorder (NPD)and possessiveness.
Miraal (Sarah Khan) comes across as a spoilt daughter – a product of parents’ favouritism, and later we find out she also has the urge to dictate others and control everything, even her family. Following the demise of her nani, Miraal experiences visions which greatly disturb her, due to which, she starts seeing a psychiatrist – Dr. Haris (Usman Mukhtar), for getting the help she needs to improve her psychological well being.
Some may argue that Miraal did not really have a psychological disorder, some mentioned that she needed psychiatric help only to resolve the visions she was experiencing, some were very vociferous about the manner in which the psychiatrist-patient relationship was depicted in the drama, but all said and done, Sabaat started critical conversations, and that is where it will always be viewed as a front-runner among the dramas that were right up there in tackling sensitive issues
3. Ishq Zahe Naseeb
Ishq -e- Zahe Naseeb raised awareness on Split Personality Disorder, aka Dissociative Identity Disorder. Sameer (Zahid Ahmed) suffers from this condition and takes on the persona of Sameera at times. The disorder has taken control of him, and even leads to the murder of his fiance, earlier in the drama.
His condition is under wraps and only his mother and a maid seem to be aware of it. His therapy sessions are also sabotaged by his (Sameer’s) mother.
“Before signing this project, I too was unaware of that this disorder exists. We are hoping that through this play we are able to educate our audience about this [DID] and how to handle such patients if they ever encounter anyone going through the same state of mind”Sonya Hussyn aka Gohar on Ishq -e- ZaheNaseeb
Saraab, raises the mental health issue of schizophrenia, how it is widely misconceived and passed over by our society, no one will see it or get the help needed until it’s too late.
Hoorain (Sonya Hussyn) is a schizophrenia patient (meaning she experiences hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking/behaviour. She is in love with Asfandyar but due to certain circumstances, she gets engaged to someone else, worsening her symptoms. The drama mimics reality in our society where families resort to darbars and babas to ge hold of taweez rather than seeking professional medical help. Luckily, our hero, Asfandyar, saves the day and takes Hoorain to a Psychiatrist and gets her diagnosed.
People around Hoorain fail to understand her condition and blame her for her unexplained behaviour. Long story short, Asfandyar marries her, faces challenges from the society, takes care and does his best to keep Hoorain happy. The drama is still ongoing and we hope the story continues to develop meaningful dialogue and solutions to a condition not yet fully understood by the masses (and even many educated households).
Where do we go from here?
These were just a few examples among many where dramas can create ripples of change. Pakistani dramas have the power to impact masses with messages that reach the widest audiences across the nation. This effort, coupled with Pakistani media talking and raising awareness on mental health is the only way to lift taboos from a topic that needs to be discussed out in the open and not brushed under the carpet.
Tend to your mental health, research and do the best you can for yourself and others. Stay healthy, stay safe!