Need for child psychiatry

Dr Imran Khan

The population of Pakistan is around 220 million, whereas it ranks as the 6th largest country of the world with respect to population. It has a growth rate of about 2.4 and the number of children and youth is significantly high as compared to many other countries where old population is high, however, despite this plus point there is no special setup or mechanism for addressing the psychological or mental health problems of the children and youth which is a very alarming sign for our progress and development.

There are many problems which are specific to this age group (childhood and adolescence) and majority of them if treated in time would lead to a significant reduction in mental illnesses in adulthood. Here, I would like to share few statistics which would help in better understanding of the problem and would help in devising strategies for possible solutions. If we look at the developed countries like America, there are more than 8000 child psychiatrists for a population of 330 million, whereas in Pakistan we have less than 5 child psychiatrists for a population of 220 million.

It is worth to mention here that the number of children and adolescents under the age of 14 is 34 % of the total population in Pakistan, which means that we have more than 64 million child population. Although, general adult psychiatrists can provide some basic services to psychologically affected children, if the issue is not resolved and dealt with properly, however, it is to be noted that the number of adult psychiatrists is also less than 500 in the whole country, so how they would manage the situation? The state of child psychiatry is further complicated by huge brain drain from the country as evident by the fact that hundreds (if not thousands) of Pakistani psychiatrists are working in the US and the UK only.

Let’s try to understand this matter of great concern that child mental health is adversely affected by additional factors like child labor, child abuse and out of school children which again are highest in Pakistan as compared to the rest of the countries in the region, except Afghanistan. The situation is definitely challenging and would need effective policies and strong way forward to move on ahead.

In this regard, mental health professionals would need to work together with policy makers, parents, school teachers and children specialists. The huge gap can be addressed by adopting public health model of prevention and promotion of mental health. Parallel to that, capacity building of the skilled personnel and allocation of funds and services are also mandatory factors.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, we don’t have any such setup or a specific institution for such services. The Pakistan Psychiatric Society (PPS) has raised this issue with the provincial government and had done fruitful meetings with the Chief Secretary and Secretary Health, who have showed their interest and agreed to take several solid steps soon in collaboration with Pakistan Psychiatric Society and other relevant departments to promote the cause of mental health profession and services.

I would suggest to the government and authorities concerned on behalf of Pakistan Psychiatric Society to establish a scholarship program on national and international level for the young psychiatrists in sub-specialties like child psychiatry, with written agreement that they would have to come back to their parent institutions and work there to establish further training services and to achieve the long term goals. Furthermore, we appreciate the encouraging gestures by the government officials in this regard and hope that we would provide some relief to public in short term, while we can also achieve the long term goals if we maintain our collaboration and team work together.

The writer is a known mental health expert and Assistant Professor in Psychiatry Department at Khyber Medical College/Khyber Teaching Hospital (MTI-KTH), Peshawar. Besides, he is also the President of Pakistan Psychiatric Society (PPS), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter. He can be contacted at:

Related Posts


There are 0 comments for this article

Leave a Reply