Lit’EDTech Fiesta | 14 | E-mental health and youngsters

In episode 14 of Lit’EDTech, Daastan invites Dr. Siddrah Irfan and Dr. Hira Chaudhry. Both of them bring together their expertise in the field of mental health. Moreover, they discuss its implications of technology and Covid-19 on the youth of Pakistan. From quoting statistics to finding policy level loopholes; the two doctors paint a vivid picture for the future of mental and emotional health services in Pakistan.

The need for E-mental health

Dr. Chaudhry takes into account the wide disparity between mentally ill people in Pakistan and qualified practitioners. He states that the “need for e-mental health is crucial for our country”. There is only 1 psychiatrist for every 10,000 people. Thus, the ease and accessibility of electronic services may very well work towards bridging the gap. 

“The use of electronic media for providing services for mental health”.

These are not only limited to face to face interventions but also include apps, websites, helplines, webinars etc. 

Mental health and technology: Is it a positive or negative relationship?

Moreover, e-mental health has become “vital in the era of technological advancements”. It is important to consider not just the advantages but also its limitations. One key issue is the lack of digital literacy in Pakistan, due to which service providers may not be able to provide efficient services. On the other hand it could also mean that patients may not be able to access these services either. Another issue is the anonymity. The practitioner solely relies on the data provided to them by the patient; unlike in a clinical setting where they can observe physical signs or bring in family members. 

However, the benefits of e-mental health outweigh the challenges”. These include cost effectiveness, accessibility, anonymity and the possibility of early diagnosis and intervention.

“While certain limitations exist, the crux of the matter is that a significantly larger chunk of the population can be treated with online services across various socio-economic backgrounds.”

Technology is not only prevalent in the concept of e-mental health, but it is also a factor that contributes to its deterioration. One of the key reasons is the impact it has on sleep. However these sleep related health issues can be solved through practicing what Dr. Irfan deems as “sleep hygiene”. This includes meditation and blue light protection amongst other recommendations.

The socio-econmic landscape of Pakistan

Finally, in localizing the discussion to Pakistan, Dr. Chaudhry suggests that the youth of Pakistan face several socio-economic pressures without any proper guidance. This relates to the taboo surrounding mental health, which “according to the elders is not a problem”. Keeping in mind the pandemic, and the lack of escape from stressful home lives the mental health situation has worsened.

However as Dr. Irfan quoted while recounting her experiences with a student, “this vicious cycle must stop somewhere”. It can be stopped through better communication between parents and children. In addition, by relying on the e-mental health services for treatment that goes beyond simply crying it out.

“Keeping in sight the religious sentiment in Pakistan, we must not exclude spirituality from the scientific discourse. We need to figure out the boundaries between the concepts, but without neglecting one or the other.” 

Advice to Youth

Towards the end, the panelists acknowledge the benefits reaped from technology. They also advise the audience to recognize the need to balance their online and offline presence as well as the impact of both on their mental health. Most importantly, they stress the need to recognize when they need help, and to not hesitate to seek help.

You can stream the full episode here. For upcoming events, stay tuned!

Noor Hashmi
Noor Hashmi is a student of literature at Numl University. She is an aspiring poetess. She runs a blog by the name of “Diaries of Huda” sharing her journey through poetry. In her free time, she loves to paint and bake.

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