Karachi, February 24, 2018 (PPI-OT): The recently formed Sindh Mental Health Authority organized a seminar on Saturday February 24th 2108. The program was organized to create awareness about the Sindh Mental Health Act (SMHA) 2015. It was presided by Chairperson of Sindh Mental Health Authority, Senator Dr. Karim Khuwaja while Prof. Dr. Syed Haroon Ahmed was the Chief Guest and Guest of Honour. The event was attended by psychiatrists, psychologists, media persons, and officials of Sindh Government.
Dr. Karim Khuwaja started the event with this welcome note. He stated that the SMHA was designed to protect basic human and civil rights of persons with mental illness and to improve the quality of care provided to them. According to this law, Courts of Protection and District Magistrates will be assigned especially to hear cases under this law. Dr. Khuwaja stated that the present event, which was focused on mental health professionals, was a first step towards raising awareness and sensitizing different groups of stake holders about the law.
Future sessions are planned for members of the judiciary and lawyers, media, and general community and consumers of mental health services. Dr. Khuwaja reported noted that he had recently presented a bill to decriminalize suicide and the bill was passed unanimously by the senate. He noted that the bill had been reviewed by the Islamic Ideology Council who had ruled that there was nothing, Dr. Khuwaja then asked Chief Guest Dr Syed Haroon Ahmed to say a few words. Dr. Ahmed reiterated the importance of sensitizing the judiciary and the lawyers’ community.
Then Dr. Rubeena Kidwai presented a brief history of mental health law in Pakistan and acknowledged the crucial role of many advocates and crusaders for the cause of mental health law over the last thirty years whose efforts had lead to current existence of SMHA. Next Dr. Muzaffar Husain, a UK based psychiatrists and expert in Forensic Psychiatry, conducted a lively, informative and interactive session on basic clauses of SMHA. He underscored the conditions under which “detention” or involuntary admission was necessary, such as when a person with mental illness poses serious threat to self or others.
Then, journalist and rights activist Dr. Ayub Shaikh pointed out that there were 129 Tehsils in Sindh but there were not enough psychiatrists/mental health professionals to cover the whole populations of Sindh. He suggested that Sindh Government should ensure that each of the Tehsils of Sindh should have at least one well trained and qualified psychiatrist.
Then Dr. Zia Awan, Advocate of Supreme Court highlighted the need for the Sindh Mental Health Authority should conduct strategic planning and develop a budget so that the next step towards implementing the law in its true spirit. He stated that the promulgation of the law is the first step but it is important to create systems and processes to promote good, ethical practice.
Next Dr, Pervaiz Ahmed Makhdoom, specialist in Medical Jurisprudence, highlighted that in each legal case, there are numerous professionals as stakeholders but the stakeholders have limited understanding of each other’s perspective, therefore there was a need to highlighted the need for inter-professional training. Then Dr. Moin Ansari shared important information about the number and range of psychiatric facilities in Sindh Province.
A session which was facilitated by Dr. Muzaffar Husain, Dr. Tony Zigmond, a UK based psychiatrist and specialist in mental health law, joined the Q and A; A session over Skype. The entire session was conducted by Dr. Jawed Akbar Dars of JPMC.
For more information, contact:
Information and Archives Department
Directorate of Press Information
Government of Sindh
95-Sindh Secretariat 4-B, Karachi, Pakistan
Tel: +92-21-99204423, +92-21-99204401