World renowned and much-loved Pakistani actor Mahira Khan has been appointed as the British Asian Trust’s latest Ambassador to support their work across South Asia.
With almost 90% of people in need of mental health treatment having no access to any kind of support, Mahira is supporting the British Asian Trust’s current Peace of Mind campaign which aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and needs in both Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Mahira is providing the keynote address at the Trust’s Iftar event on 14 April 2022 at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House in London with guests including celebrities, business leaders and philanthropists.
The Trust plans to scale up its already successful work to build even more awareness, reach more people and provide more access to community-based healthcare, referrals and support. Marginalised children who have suffered severe trauma will be a priority.
Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of the British Asian Trust, said: “We are delighted to have Mahira Khan, one of Pakistan’s greatest superstars, join us as an Ambassador. Mahira’s voice will be incredibly powerful in helping us to lift the silence on mental health and improve access to services in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The need in both countries is great and we’re already having an impact on changing lives, we can’t do this work alone.”
Mahira Khan said: “I am proud to be an Ambassador for the British Asian Trust and support their work in South Asia. Their mental health work in Pakistan has been ground-breaking, reaching millions of people but there is more to do.
“Untreated mental health issues can have a devastating impact on individuals, families, lives and relationships. Talking more about mental health, breaking the stigma around it and helping more people access support so they can have peace of mind is critical. No one should ever have to suffer in silence.”
One in four people in Pakistan will experience mental health issues, but a lack of services means there is only one psychiatrist per half million people, compared to one for every 10,000 people in the UK. Stigma associated with mental health also prevents people from seeking help, with the subject still taboo in many communities.
In Bangladesh, suicide is the leading cause of death among Bangladeshi adolescents. Women and girls, especially those in rural communities, are particularly vulnerable. Most Bangladeshis have no access to mental health services, and they encounter stigma and social exclusion.
Without appropriate support, mental health conditions can significantly worsen a person’s wellbeing and their ability to maintain relationships, forcing them to become isolated and alone. They can also lead to alcohol and drug dependency, hospitalisation, severe depression and even suicide.
In Pakistan, the Trust’s pioneering work in mental health has already reached 28 million people via SMS campaigns and social media activity. Over 46,000 people have attended mental health awareness raising sessions in their communities and been screened for mental health issues. Training has also been provided to 2,000 frontline health practitioners in basic mental health awareness.
In Bangladesh, the Trust is working with leading mental health organisations to develop community-based services available to all through tele and online services, as well as tackling stigma in the workplace and communities and encouraging those in need to seek support.