In Pakistan, the burden of mental health disorders is huge and ranges from severe chronic disorders to numerous conditions in which psychosocial factors play a significant role. As for any condition, taking preventive measures to ensure good mental health helps people to stay more resilient while keeping overall healthcare costs lower. At the Aga Khan University (AKU) in Karachi, the primary objective of the Mental Health Group is to draw expertise from all possible specialties and disciplines to design both community- and facility-based interventions at various levels. Most members of the group have been working together for more than 10 years on pertinent issues such as common mental disorders, suicidal behaviours, and women and adolescent mental health. Their aim is to continue advancing the multidisciplinary agenda for better mental health outcomes in Pakistan.
Life skill building to improve maternal mental health in Pakistan: a randomised control trial
The purpose of this project is to enhance the self-esteem of both mothers and fathers through the training of couples in an 8-week Life Skill Building intervention programme. The couples will be recruited from a list of female beneficiaries who are receiving cash transfer from the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), the premier safety net in Pakistan aimed at poverty reduction. BISP beneficiaries belong to the most under-privileged, marginalised and vulnerable sections of society.
The participants of the AKU project will initially include BISP beneficiaries from the district of Thatta Sindh. The project will undertake a randomised control trial to measure the impact of life skill training on these couples, looking specifically at maternal depression, domestic violence and women’s empowerment. It will also study how paternal involvement impacts family economic solvency and resilience, attitudes about gender roles, and child nutrition, health and behaviour.
As they develop practical life skills while receiving federal cash transfer, it is hoped that the mental health and economic well-being of the project participants and their families will improve and, ultimately, the women will be able to participate more fully in society as global citizens alongside men.