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“No one with mental health problems has to be alone”

The PGFRC has various partners who provide psychosocial counselling.

“No one with mental health problems has to be alone”

Mental health problems are still seen as a taboo in Pakistan. Many people therefore tend to play them down or ignore them. This means there is increased demand for experienced advisors who can use careful observation to detect signs of mental crises. “Nowadays, it’s more important than ever to invest in mental health and get the conversation started”, says Faisal Shabbir, an advisor at the Pakistani-German Facilitation and Reintegration Centre (PGFRC). “No one with mental health problems has to be alone.”

Shabbir provides reintegration and career advice, and is a member of the Mental Health and Psychosocial Services Group (MHPSS). This advisor knows that people who are cut off from their family when they emigrate can suffer from mental health issues. Language barriers as well as social and cultural differences can also make it difficult for migrants to integrate into social life in their destination country. Only a few of them are courageous enough to seek professional counselling from a psychologist.

It helps to be prepared before going back home

Even after returning to Pakistan, people often suffer from existential anxieties and are concerned about their professional and social reintegration. This makes it all the more important that they’re well prepared for returning, Shabbir says. “When people have decided to come back to Pakistan, we ensure that the initial personal contact with the PGFRC is made before they leave Germany. Our advisors are also informed about the individual’s specific needs and requirements. We then put together suitable offerings here in Lahore. These include details regarding our partner organisations who provide psychosocial support.”

The advisors carefully use this first phone call to note whether the returnee mentions mental health issues or whether there are any corresponding signs that indicate such issues. The team can therefore make all the necessary arrangements if they need to refer somebody to the appropriate professionals. Once they arrive back in Pakistan the advisors hold a conversation with the returnee in the centre, and together they will develop a plan for social and economic reintegration. They try to gain an exact understanding of the individual’s needs so that they receive the right assistance. “When someone seeking counselling is psychologically burdened, for example due to financial worries, our team primarily supports him or her in finding a job. This initially reduces their financial stress”, states Shabbir.

Counselling from partner organisations

Referrals to psychosocial counselling made by the PGFRC do not take place at the centre itself. The advisors put returnees or locals seeking psychosocial support in touch with one of their partner organisations who provide counselling and therapies.

Rozan is one such organisation that provides free services nationwide to people with mental illness. One of their main priorities is helping victims of violence, especially women and children. Rozan offers consultations in person, by phone and online and has operated a national counselling hotline since the start of the corona pandemic.

The organisation Willing Ways runs counselling centres and a rehabilitation clinic for people suffering from mental health problems and drug addiction. The organisation ReliveNow also offers online counselling sessions with mental health professionals.

As of: 10/2021

Nowadays, it’s more important than ever to invest in mental health and get the conversation started.
Faisal Shabbir