Doctors come together to examine the phenomenon and understand its significance
KARACHI: Jalaluddin Rumi and Shams Tabrizi’s words are very inspiring but in real life these messages do not always help, said United Medical and Dental College (UMDC) dean Brig (retd) Prof Dr Khalid Hassan Mahmood.
“When I look at the horizon of mental health, even on an international level, I see intolerance, corruption, infringement on other people’s rights and desecration of places of worship, none of which is conducive to [good mental health],” he explained during his inaugural speech at the UMDC’s first National Symposium on Medical Sciences, Spirituality and Mental Health on Saturday.
The UMDC dean cautioned medical professionals to also seek help because it is easy for them to fall into depression while treating terminally ill patients. “Please don’t forget yourself,” he pleaded. “Don’t hesitate if you feel you need any [psychiatric] care. All of us should remain united and try to help each other,” said Dr Mahmood.
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By looking at the past, we can solve many of today’s problems, explained historian Dr Mubarak Ali, chief guest at the event. According to him, there are different realities and truths for each group of people in a pluralistic society and people tend to coexist peacefully. However, in a monolithic society there is one reality or idea to which everyone conforms and a “tyranny of majority” is formed, he explained.
In the subcontinent, there has always been a pluralistic society, Dr Ali pointed out. People of different religions peacefully coexisted during the Mughal era, it is only recently that such violent clashes between the followers of the two religions began, he explained. He went on to narrate an abridged version of the impact of religion on the politics of the subcontinent and the benefits of religious harmony. “If we follow this pluralistic model and learn from history, we too can live in a peaceful society,” claimed Dr Ali.
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“Doctors don’t ask patients about their religion, instead they only look at what needs to be treated [medically]. For this reason, politicians should be more like doctors and fix what’s wrong in society without bias,” said Dr Ali.
Dr Mohsin Naqvi spoke about the religious perspective of the issue and said that a large number of issues regarding mental health can be solved simply by understanding mental disorders.
Dr Shoaib Zaidi, dean of science and engineering at Habib University, discussed the impact of scientific advancements on humanity. “There are a lot of problems with these advancements. Technology connects us to people across the globe but disconnects us from those around us,” he said.
“If we do not instil in our [medical] students a sense of society there will be a sense of otherness. There needs to be a bridge between book-learning and people, which is created via holistic learning or liberal arts education,” he explained.
The event continued with a host of panellists discussing mental health in a variety of contexts, in order to gain a full understanding of the topic. The symposium, organised in collaboration with Dow Univeristy of Health Sciences, is the first of its kind in Pakistan and was put together by Dr Shehla Alvi, head of the department of psychiatry.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2015.