Combating Stigma and Providing Care – CareForHealth’s Approach to Mental Health in Karachi, Pakistan

Article and Interview by Yumna Ain, Correspondent, American Pakistan Foundation

Edited by Sawera Hussan, Correspondent, American Pakistan Foundation

Co-Founders of CareForHealth: Dr. Lalarukh Haris Shaikh and Alizeh Valjee

In response to the stigma around mental health and illness around the world, there are organizations combating misconceptions while providing assistance to populations in need.  CareForHealth is taking a leading role in Karachi, Pakistan by working on the mission to “remove stigma against mental illnesses in developing countries.”  Dr. Lalarukh Haris Shaikh was inspired to co-found the organization with the realization of how fortunate many of us are in comparison to people in impoverished areas of Pakistan and around the world.  She had the motivation and passion to give back to underprivileged communities in Pakistan with fellow Co-Founder, Alizeh Valjee who has experience in psychology.  CareForHealth rehabilitates adults with mental illness, and then facilitates their transition into employment once they recover.  Their innovative process of rehabilitation, reintegration, and education of people who suffer from mental illness makes them unique, effective, and sets them apart from other organizations.

Dr. Haris Shaikh spoke with us about the various challenges, milestones and goals she and her team members have experienced throughout their journey in running a non-profit organization in Pakistan.  She describes mental health as “having stability and happiness in your mind, and peace within yourself.” Although she and her team members faced numerous difficulties, she shared rewarding stories of successful clients who had overcome their mental illnesses.  They have gone ahead to work in different fields and have been integrated back into society.  She described this past year as being incredibly beneficial and worthwhile for CareForHealth and its success with clients.  Dr. Haris Shaikh shared a specific scenario of a client who had overcome his depression with the help of CareForHealth and began to work in an accounting firm. He later contacted the team and wanted to give back by donating money to CareForHealth as a token of his appreciation. His story emphasizes the importance of an organization like CareForHealth for society and the people of Pakistan.  

American Pakistan Foundation intern Yumna Ain and CareForHealth Co-Founder, Dr. Lalarukh Haris Shaikh

CareForHealth has carefully developed their strategy to treat patients with the help of their trained clinical practitioners. They work in five clinics and hospitals across Karachi, Pakistan including Jinnah Postgraduate Medical College Hospital and Agha Khan Hospital. They work cooperatively with psychiatrists, clinical practitioners, and other health professionals in these hospitals to get the clients the proper psychological help they need. Lalarukh and her team hope to expand and reach out to more hospitals in Karachi and as well as suburban areas. As part of a comprehensive approach, CareForHealth connects with other supportive organizations such as the Pakistan Lawyers Guild (PLG) who have been pushing forward mental health laws in Pakistan. CareForHealth practitioners and other team members in Pakistan, and abroad are truly working diligently to provide a wide range of assistance to individuals in need of help.

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