This The News article about a mental health conference in Peshawar, northern Pakistan, alleges that 1 in 3 Pakistanis suffers from mental health problems as a result of the terrorist attacks of recent years and this past summer’s massive flooding. Bombing campaigns have struck areas such as Swat Valley in the north as well as major cities such as Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi, spreading a sense of dread and insecurity. The Great Deluge of 2010 affected 20 million Pakistanis and left 8 million of them in need of temporary housing.
The significance of the 33% figure is hard to judge without knowing more about the authors’ definitions. Persons with a mental illness sometime during the year in the US are estimated at between 15 and 20 percent of the population. This statistic concerns persons with a cluster of mental problems that interferes with their ordinary functioning. A much larger proportion have what US psychiatrists call ‘mental health problems’ (one study suggested that over 80 percent of people in Manhattan suffer from such maladies.) If the Peshawar mental health professionals are saying that a third of Pakistanis have a cluster of mental problems that prevent them from coping with life, then Pakistan’s rate would be twice that of the US (a much, much wealthier and more secure country). But it is more likely that the one-third proportion refers to mental health conditions rather than debilitating clusters.
Given that a third of Pakistanis live on a dollar a day, that terrorist bombings have become widespread and all too frequent, and that drug addiction has spread as Afghanistan poppies and heroin have created a transit route through Pakistan, the 1/3 figure may be plausible regarding people with a mental condition.