Mental Health is an overlooked and neglected part of healthcare. The Pakistani healthcare system is still struggling to provide primary and secondary healthcare causing mental health services to be pushed on the back burner. With rapid urbanization, disparity of health services and growing socio economic divide – the emphasis of mental health services becomes increasingly important.
Pursukoon Zindagi (“Peaceful Life”) is a program launched by IRD Pakistan which aims to increase access to mental health services in low income settings utilizing innovative community based approaches. Initially this program was implemented in 3 low income communities in Karachi. Over 65 community members were trained in basic counseling skills to be able to screen and treat depression and anxiety. Equipped with smart phones and a customized mobile health application – trained workers went door to door screening to proactively identify and track men and women suffering from depression and anxiety. Identified persons were then provided free counseling services in the privacy of their homes.
Over 2 years, Pursukoon Zindagi screened over 45,000 individuals and offered free counseling to over 2,000 people suffering from depression and anxiety. Over 2,000 awareness sessions were conducted to reduce stigma, bring recognition of mental health as an issue, shed light on symptoms associated with depression and anxiety and guide people on where to get appropriate care. Over 15,000 people enrolled in the positive support text messaging service.
Through this pilot program IRD Pakistan has been able to establish a novel way to approach mental health that enables community members to become a part of the solution and be catalyst for change. The m-health app enabled paperless execution and allowed the program to scale seamlessly.
With the key learnings taken from this program – Pursukoon Zindagi is currently expanding their program to increase access to, and awareness for, mental health care and other psychosocial interventions.
Stay tuned for more updates from the Pursukoon Zindagi team!