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Pakistan’s healthcare system faces a myriad of challenges; low financing, lack of specialized services, inequitable distribution of available resources and fragmented service delivery.  Rapidly rising COVID-19 cases increased the burden on healthcare providers to treat patients and to provide up-to-date information in a constantly changing health landscape. 

The pandemic has also been accompanied by an ‘infodemic’ of misinformation and increased mental distress in the general population and among healthcare providers.

A very clear need emerged for integrated mental health and contextual home management of COVID-19.

Our Approach

Pursukoon Zindagi (“Peaceful Life”), IRD’s Mental Health Program, used a stepped care approach, training lay counsellors to remotely provide integrated physical and mental health patient consultations through proactive calls, a mental health reactive helpline, one-on-one counselling (phone or video based) and peer WhatsApp-based support groups.

 The program’s three pronged approach to provide integrated COVID-19 and mental health counselling included:

  1. Proactive calls to patients tested for COVID-19 to provide wellness check-ins, contextual guidance on management of COVID-19 and referrals to treatment centers for severe symptoms.
  2. Support Groups for frontline workers.
  3. A crisis helpline for the general population suffering from anxiety and depression.

The goal of this approach is to reduce the burden on emergency care units and mental health specialists. It also aims to respond to the increased need for remote mental health services.


Through this integrated effort, PSZ has been able to reach thousands of vulnerable people in need of support, and improve the capacity of 78 health workers to remotely provide integrated physical and mental healthcare.

The Pursukoon Zindagi COVID-19 Response was also selected as a winner of the 2021 UN Science, Technology and Innovation Forum. 

With mental health officers making proactive calls to COVID patients, over 42,000 patients who tested for COVID-19 were provided support during their isolation or quarantine period. The mental health helpline received over 1,100 calls from community members to avail support, with the team supporting over 1,000 frontline workers through partnered webinars, check-ins and peer support groups.

IRD co-founded the Pakistan Mental Health Coalition in response to the mental health burden of COVID-19 along with Aga Khan University Hospital, British Asian Trust, Taskeen, Sehat Kahani and Saaya.



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