A large number of Afghans suffer from mental illness
An Afghan patient sits in a yard at only metal health rehabilitation center in Herat

A large number of Afghans suffer from mental illness

Insecurity, unemployment and uncertainty are a major cause behind increasing anxiety and depression in the country.   

Surveys conducted recently show that mental health problem is widespread in Afghanistan.  Officials at the Afghan Ministry of Public Health announced that as many as 47 percent of the country’s population are suffering from mental health problems. According to figures published by the government, 4.7 percent of the population suffers from depression, 2.7 percent of Afghans suffer from anxiety, 5.8 percent of the people suffer from trauma, and one percent of the population is diagnosed to have been suffering from schizophrenia.

Afghanistan’s brutal violence—widespread conflict, suicide bombing, and airstrikes—are the main cause behind increasing mental health problem in the country. The latest World Happiness Survey commissioned by the United Nations places the country as the third most unhappy in the world. The survey shows that after South Sudan and the Central African Republic, Afghanistan is the third unhappy nation.

In 2018, the Australian Institute of Economics and Peace Think Tank, conducting a survey, ranked Afghanistan as the second insecure nation, ranking Syria at the top.  

Ali Arman, a resident of Kabul, explains that many of his friends and relatives suffer from mental health problems. He believes that in Afghanistan only a few number of patients who suffer from mental health problems visit psychiatrist whereas a large number of them refuse to visit psychiatrists for they think visiting psychiatrist damages their social reputation.

“Awareness about mental health problems is low among people,” said Ali Arman. “Many people see mental health problem as shame and refuse to acknowledge.” Ali urges the government to set up more equipped public mental health centers.

Zaman Rezaee, a physiologist in Kabul, claims that the Ministry of Public Heath deliberately ignores public health workers who work in psychotherapy field. The ministry should have held training programs for fresh university graduates who have studied psychology. The ministry needs to support psychologists who can help the country overcome mental health problems. He added that tens of graduates who hold degree in psychology are jobless.

Meanwhile, Bashir Ahmad Sarwari, the head of mental health section at the Ministry of Public Health, acknowledged that mental illness is widespread in the country.

“Psychotherapy is a complicated process. The health care system of the country is incapable to train therapists, and we do not have specialized psychotherapy course,”  

Mr. Sarwari said.  

When Mohammad Amin, a senior student of a private university, heard a radio announcement about a therapy center, he became hopeful to get help and overcome depression. “I visited a therapist and paid the fee but I really did not get better. Some therapists advised me to visit a doctor, but I cannot afford,” Amin noted.