Students' mental health in Karachi studied
02 March 2015
A PhD student at the University of Canterbury is investigating factors impacting on university students' mental health in Karachi, Pakistan.
A PhD student at the University of Canterbury is investigating factors impacting on university students’ mental health in Karachi, Pakistan.
Doctoral education student Uzma Irfan is studying at the University of Canterbury’s College of Education under the supervision of Associate Professor Penni Cushman. Her research was the first of its kind undertaken in Pakistan. She is completing her thesis at Canterbury.
A recent New Zealand Mental Health Foundation survey has found nearly half (46 percent) of New Zealanders will experience a mental illness and or an addiction at some time in their lives, with one in five (20 percent) of people affected at any one time.
Irfan is a clinical psychologist and is a member of International Association for Suicide Prevention. Her area of interest is in suicide prevention particularly among adolescents and young adults.
She surveyed 600 students from six different departments at the Bahria University of Karachi, to assess the impact of factors on their mental health and wellness.
The students were questioned about their views on mental health and factors such as a father’s warmth, self-esteem, peer support, socio-economic status, gender and the student’s personality.
Uzma, who is working part time for the Canterbury District Health Board, worked closely with undergraduate university students (18 to 24 years) and people at the University. Her research was conducted in challenging circumstances. The law and order situation was extremely tense during the time of her research in Karachi.
“Three times I was given the date for data collection but because of strikes and riots I was unable to collect information. My father accompanied me every time and sat in my office to make sure I was safe. The topic of mental health is still taboo in Pakistan. There was also limited hours of internet use at the time.
“It is important to note the political and social contexts under which some PhD students undertake their research. Preliminary findings suggest that factors like fathers’ warmth, personality factors and peer support clearly impact on university students’ mental health.
“It is hoped the results of this work will be used to develop a policy for student counselling services as well as for awareness programmes at universities and schools. The thesis, when completed, could also be helpful in New Zealand universities and schools. An unexpected outcome of the study was that after that data collection 18 students came to university counsellors for help.
“Out of the 18 students, 11 were male. That was really surprising because male students almost never come to counselling voluntarily. In Pakistan at least, it is taken as shame and a weakness,” Irfan says.
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