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She seemed like a beautiful accomplished girl, with foreign qualification, the right gigs at work, beauty with brains and sophistication. She was a rising star with a bright future ahead of her. Yet no one knew the storm brewing inside model and fashion designer Anam Tanoli, who committed suicide.


Once again, we were reminded that our well-being comprises of a very important aspect: mental health. On Mental Health Day, Aaleen Shafaat, training to be a mental health professional and currently doing her thesis, answers some common questions about mental health awareness:

1. What do I do if I am all alone and I feel like life has no meaning?

You talk to someone ASAP and clearly communicate how you feel. If someone tries to dismiss your feelings, know that no one has the right to tell you that what you feel is not real. “Or get over it”. They just say that because they don’t really want to take the burden of your emotional wellbeing upon themselves. Never be ashamed of how you feel.


Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind!

If the world doesn’t listen to your hurt, do not lose hope. There know are people in this world who find meaning in life by helping other the ones who need help. There are many people who make careers out of their desire to help others. Reach out to them!

Forums like Talk2Me are really important; they extend help out to others at the distance of a phone call.  Talk2Me is Pakistan’s first crisis helpline that has a list of professionals available on call, to talk too. They can even refer you to a therapist if something you’re going through requires professional long-term help. Stay safe!

2. Why should I not be afraid to reach out?

What people usually fear more than anything is revealing their secrets to another person. They feel that if they do so, everyone will find out who they really are what they fear and what goes on in their mind. They think it will result in social isolation. Therapy sessions are usually one hour per week, and the fact that you see a therapist can be hidden too! The therapist is, in most cases, very careful of the clients’ right to his privacy. They will even let you enter and leave from a back door, if you feel uncomfortable entering from the main door to the clinic. And above that, A mental health professional is bound to keep the information provided by the client confidential.

3. What qualifies a mental health professional? What is the difference between a Psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a social worker?

A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor with a specialization in Psychology. Most of them have done an MBBS and then a further degree in Psychology. They are important because they know about the right medication and have the authorization to prescribe medication.

A Psychologist, on the other hand, is a person trained primarily in therapy/ research/ or a sub-field of Psychology. They most likely have one of the following Qualification: MS Clinical Psychology, PhD. in Clinical Psychology, or an M.phill in Clinical Psychology. A Psychologist is a Behavioral scientist (they study behavior), they are certainly familiar with the biological aspect of mental health but they do not have primary training in Physiology nor can they prescribe medication.

4. Why must I go to a Psychologist if a Psychiatrist can do the same thing for me?

The Psychologist studied human behavior and therapeutic techniques for 10ish years, and has a wide range of behavioral techniques in his arsenal. For example, if I have a client suffering from childhood trauma, I need to use techniques like “inner child healing” I will have to “peel away” his defenses to reach that inner child and help my client heal it. A Psychiatrist may be able to recommend the technique that a client might need and a Psychologist who can help him but may take it on himself. Likewise, I, as a Psychologist might know which medication, you need but I can’t authorize you access to them, I need a Psychiatrist’s prescription and I’d be able to refer you to one.

Psychologists are just as expensive as Psychiatrists, this is where the social worker comes in. Social workers are primarily volunteers with little training in Mental Health. But they are just as important because they give their time and their energies to the patient. These three specialists work together to provide the right care to the patient.

5. Can a Psychologist read minds?

Unfortunately no, Psychologists are, however, more emphatic than an average person; they have chosen a profession in healing the emotional hurts of others. They understand your pain and they can also imagine themselves in your position.

6. If I am getting help/ sessions, how do I know my information is safe?


If you think a Psychologist will judge you, or tell others the things which were discussed in session…We don’t do that! We are bound by the Code of Ethics and therefore have a commitment with the moral commitment to the client-doctor confidentiality.

In my official records, this is how your details will look like: For example, your name is Ali Khan and you are a 37 years old male, this is what your file will say:

Name: K., A.

Age; 37

Gender: M

Since I will have countless files like these ones, how will I remember what K.,A. stands for? I will make a separate index file, which would be stored somewhere else, and all these documents will be kept under lock and key. The Code of Ethics requires a Clinician to destroy all files after a certain period of time.

7. What are the signs that someone needs help?

There is one sign that usually signifies that someone might need help; dysfunctionality i.e. a person is unable to carry out the day -to-day tasks that are required of him/her which he had no problem carrying out before. For example, he used to go to work with enthusiasm everyday but is suddenly very absent minded at work.

Disclaimer: Without proper training in Clinical diagnosis; you cannot and must NOT label someone as depressed. Depression is a lot more than ‘being sad’ and it’s best to leave the actual diagnosis to the professional. Reach out to one.

8. What are the common signs someone might be suicidal and should be referred to a professional?

  • They will joke about killing themselves.
  • They are not the same (if they were always on time and they met deadlines and they suddenly change, something is up.)
  • They will say life is pointless (i.e. hopelessness).
  • They will try to put their affairs in order, or make a will.
  • They will joke about why they should die, or someone else should die.

If a person makes a joke about death, this is a very serious sign and should not be ignored. No one sits around and thinks about their death to pass the time. About 70% people who attempt suicide make a threat of suicide to a loved one.

Please share any further queries in the comments below and they will be surely addressed!

Reference: Abnormal Psychology, 16E, Butcher et. Al..

Cover photo source:


  • Sara Pirzada
    Posted October 10, 2018 7:04 pm 0Likes

    Beautifully written. I love how the writer puts her words out so honestly and in a way that people can relate to them. I love how she has explained so many medical and science related things so simply! Keep up the great work! 👍🏾

  • Sualiha Ali
    Posted October 10, 2018 7:17 pm 0Likes

    Really nicely written and answers questions really clearly. I loved the explanations being presented in such a way that everyone can understand them!

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