Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS)

COMSATS’ holds Joint Workshop on Mental Health Advocacy for Universities

COMSATS’ holds Joint Workshop on Mental Health Advocacy for Universities

On 25th October 2022, COMSATS, in collaboration with Faculty Development Academy (FDA) of COMSATS University Islamabad (CUI), Islamabad, organized a Workshop on “Engaging University Faculty for Mental Health Wellbeing of Youth”. Addressing the need to focus more on the achievement of SDG 3 and its targets that include mental health wellbeing, the event was continuation of the initiative undertaken last year to observe World Mental Health Day. Held at CUI, Islamabad, the half day workshop had physical participation of around 50 faculty members belonging to CUI campuses, including Islamabad, Wah, Attock, Abbotabad, as well as other universities including Islamic International University (IIU) and National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST).

In his welcome address, Mr. Laeeq Hassan Jaswal, In-charge FDA-CUI, shared concern over growing trends of mental illnesses. He especially mentioned the turmoil caused by the un-controlled use of social-media and digital gadgets in young generation which are causing various behavioral disorders not only in young generation but in overall population. He hoped to address some aspects of the same through the current focused event.

To orient the faculty members on mental health management of their students, Ms. Sidra Akhtar, Chairperson, Foundation Drug Psychological Rehabilitation Centre, Islamabad, was invited as the resource person for the two technical sessions of the workshop.

Ms. Akhtar started the first session with introductions of the faculty members. Defining health and mental health, she highlighted that interdependence of physical and mental health by citing recent researches and some facts on mental health. It was informed that 80 million people in Pakistan are suffering from psychological disorders and the number is expected to increase drastically in the coming years. Ms. Akhtar also talked about social stigmas and lack of empathy that mentally ill patients experience from the society. Ms. Akhtar also highlighted the common disorders in young generation and their possible reasons, and emphasized the need for a watchful eye identifying abnormal behavior, while keeping them integrated in the society. She added that addiction and suicide are the silent problems of Pakistan’s Education System, and also shared the cases of suicide victims from different educational institutes to highlight the gravity of situation.

The participants took keen interest in the interactive session by asking pertinent questions and sharing concerns as mentors, as well as shared their own views and experiences related to students’ mental health. Ms. Sidra concluded her first session by highlighting the consequences of students’ mental illness on University’s environment and stressing that the administration and policy makers should take due and timely actions in this regard.

The second technical session was based on group activity that aimed at equipping the teachers with ways to keep students comfortable and encourage interaction so as to keep open communication on matters possibly affecting their mental health. The participants took keen interest in the activity and came up with ways to engage with the students other than studies. On conclusion of the activity, Ms. Akhtar summed up the identified reasons and results of the activity. These included: faculty members developing keen observation, increase in healthy interaction thorough useful expressions and discussions to overcome the communication gap with students. In conclusion, she encouraged everyone to help and to start with themselves to ensure access to positive, safe and healthy environment for all, especially youth.

The event concluded with keynote from Dr. Fareed A. Minhas, the renowned Psychiatrist and Director, the Tree House Psychiatry clinic, who graced the concluding session as Chief Guest. Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Minhas stated that the exponentially increasing psychological issues are the most pressing social and health issue of our society. He not only stressed upon the significance of the need for ensuring mental wellbeing but also shed light on the social stigmas and people’s undue opinions and suggestions faced by the patients upon sharing their frustrations and worries. To give a clearer picture, he also shared a case study of a patient who underwent disturbing events throughout her entire life which ultimately led to depression. Focusing on students and teachers, he advised teachers to remain open to talking and building healthy communication with their students. Dr. Minhas also addressed the queries from the audience and appreciated the efforts and initiatives taken by the organizing partners to highlight mental health and well-being which is a rather ignored issue of the society. “Such events are necessary for mental health advocacy, as the awareness in local population related to mental illnesses is nest to zero”, he said.

Closing the event, Dr. Azeema Fareed, Additional Director – Health, COMSATS Secretariat, recapped the event, and underscored key take-aways. In her vote of thanks, she expressed the organizers’ gratitude to the Chief Guest, Dr. Minhas, for his invaluable insights on the theme of the event. She also appreciated Ms. Akhtar’s effective conduction of the technical sessions of the event. FDA’s collaboration was also lauded.

The event concluded with distribution of certificates among the participants and presentation of souvenirs to the speaker and the Chief Guest.