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Pursukoon Zindagi

Challenge

Depression is the most frequently encountered mental health disorder in Pakistan. Due to the stigma associated with mental health diseases, those who suffer often remain undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or untreated.

Moreover, mental health is unfortunately an overlooked and neglected part of healthcare in Pakistan. The public healthcare system is still struggling to provide primary and secondary healthcare causing mental health services to be given little or no priority.

With rapid urbanization, disparity of health services and the growing socio-economic divide – the need to emphasize mental health services becomes increasingly important. There is an urgency to develop new interventions to increase early detection and treatment of mental illness, in the general population and in the cases of disease co-morbidity.

Our Approach

In 2014, IRD launched the Pursukoon Zindagi (“Peaceful Life”) program which aims to increase access to mental health services in low income settings by utilizing innovative community based approaches.

Initially this program was implemented in 3 low income communities in Karachi. Over 65 community members were trained in basic counseling skills to be able to screen and treat depression and anxiety. Equipped with smart phones and a customized mobile health application, trained workers went door to door screening to proactively identify and track men and women suffering from depression and anxiety. Identified persons were then provided free counseling services in the privacy of their homes.

Through this pilot program IRD Pakistan has been able to establish a novel way to approach mental health that enables community members to become a part of the solution and be catalyst for change. The m-health app enabled paperless execution and allowed the program to scale seamlessly.

Impact

Over 2 years, Pursukoon Zindagi screened over 45,000 individuals and offered free counseling to over 2,000 people suffering from depression and anxiety. Over 2,000 awareness sessions were conducted to reduce stigma, bring recognition of mental health as an issue, shed light on symptoms associated with depression and anxiety and guide people on where to get appropriate care. Over 15,000 people were enrolled in a free text messaging service, where they received a daily positive support SMS message regarding mental health.