Pakistan Psychiatric Society has called on the government to check unregulated mental health centres where people like Zahir Jaffer, the man accused of brutally murder Noor Mukaddam, received training to become a counsellor.
Although their statement on Friday did not explicitly name TherapyWorks which is the organization where Zahir was enrolled and also worked, it wrote about the growth of centers which were imparting substandard services without any checks and balances.
"The critical shortage of qualified mental health providers in Pakistan, including psychiatrists, has not only deprived our population of quality, evidence-based mental health services but has also allowed the mushroom growth of unsupervised centers all over the country. These centers are preying on the unsuspecting public of Pakistan, charging huge sums of money for substandard, sometimes dangerous, services without any oversight or any recourse available to patients and families harmed by them,” it said.
It also issued some pointers for stakeholders to consider regarding the gruesome murder of Noor, which has shaken many Pakistanis.
In reference to stories that Zahir Jaffer suffered drug abuse or mental health issues, the society said “the vast majority of people with mental health issues do NOT commit crimes (including violent crimes). Multiple international research studies have documented that the rate of crimes committed by people with mental health problems are about the same as that of the general population (with some exceptions)."
PPS believes “that the alleged murderer’s mental health history should not be presented as a ‘cause’ of the murder. This can add to the already enormous stigma faced by patients with mental illness and their families in Pakistan. People with mental health problems (including those who commit crimes) need appropriate assessment by qualified professionals and, if needed, treatment and rehabilitation.”
IT also called on PEMRA to ensure the media did not sensationalize this story, saying poor reporting could cause "secondary trauma" for viewers.
It also called on provincial governments to ask their media departments to air messagse that destigmatize mental health issues and urges people with mental health issues to seek help. They said government hospitals are equipped to assist patients at their psychiatric departments.
It also offered to assist the government in developing such campaigns.
“While the loss of any life is tragic, when the loss happens in such brutal circumstances, the mental health impact on the family of the deceased, friends, well-wishers, and the community at large is much greater,” it writes.