Behavioral health is a matter of importance all across the world. Cultural and social variances change the way people talk about and treat mental illness, which tends to complicate things. But at the same time, the differences offer new perspectives and never-before-considered treatment options. RecoveryView.com is interested in international perspectives and interviewed Zar Nigar Tojik to learn about what is being done for mental health in the Northern areas of the country of Pakistan where politics and violence have had the effect of creating personal and social turbulence, and where suicide rates are high.
Tojik from Moorkhun, Gojal, Hunza-Gilgit told us, “Life is a blessing of nature and our youth must be informed about its significance and value.”
She is a part of “NO TO SUICIDE, LOVE LIFE” of which the main objective is to draw attention to the problem of suicide and its causes. Leaders of the movement also deliberately state that they want to “encourage young people to live.” The project aims to prevent suicide in Gilgit Baltistan, where behavioral health problems are not often talked about, and hopes to spread across Pakistan.
Tojik represents a common community perspective which holds that Government should take responsibility for its people’s mental health. But, at the same time, she is not willing to wait for the Government to step up.
“We as a group of responsible citizens and agents of social change are initiating the ‘NO TO SUICIDE, LOVE LIFE’ movement in the Northern villages regardless of government involvement.”
As an interesting contrast to many treatment programs in the United States that center around addressing symptoms, the NO TO SUICIDE sessions will be focused on helping youth to understand, in Tojik’s words,
“that life is a Heavenly blessing.”
Religion is an important part of the way of life in Pakistan. In fact, it is foundational to the culture and influences the way people understand their circumstances. Naturally, NO TO SUICIDE employs that lens for all of their sessions and even as a part of their mission statement.
Tojik told us, “Life is a heavenly gift of the Almighty and we must feel content and grateful to be gifted a life to live no matter what is the situation is. We have to be thankful to Allah that He has bestowed us with the ability to think and act.”
Although the philosophical and religious lens is all-encompassing, the programs offered by this new initiative are specific in nature.
“Our sessions enhance four essential ‘self’ traits: Higher Self Esteem, Healthy Decision Making, Enhancing Social Skills, and Crisis Management Abilities.”
Tojik feels that the youth must engage as positive influences and take an active role in helping to prevent suicide. During their most recent sessions in MoorKhun, NO TO SUICIDE worked with many parents and youth by encouraging candid analysis and discussion.
Noor Hayat, an avid sportsman and coach who offered closing remarks, made clear that generation gaps are all too vivid in Pakistani families. Tojik, moved by Hayat’s words, paraphrased those remarks for RecoveryView.com:
“Parents suffer more than youth,” he had said.
Hayat pointed out, with a tone of surprise, that no matter how much parents manage to feed, clothe, and educate their children, there are still major mental health problems.
“If this is the result of their hard-work, then it is a failure of humanity,” Tojik reported him saying.
Hayat’s broad philosophical view is particularly informative as we examine the roles and responsibilities of parents in different cultures. He pointed out that there is a communication gap among parents and children and that society becoming “status-conscious” is a major problem. “Status-consciousness” in these villages represents at least one divide among many: modernity vs. tradition. According to Tojik, the youth are inclined toward certain trends in modernism or even Westernism, whereas their parents often prefer to adhere to their traditional ways. The youth’s inclinations are often viewed as “immature behavior” and are perhaps irreverent of their parents’ traditional ways.
“Committing suicide is the most imprudent act of any individual, but if we talk things out, then things can be different,” he insisted. Hayat then encouraged youth go to their parents and share their problems. At the same time, he encouraged parents to be tolerant enough to understand the needs of their children.
Tojik is tremendously passionate but keeps a cautious eye open for over-idealizing the cause.
“We are realistic. We don’t think that we can completely end suicide, but we can certainly help to reduce and prevent it.”
To keep up with Tojik’s work and the work of other young people in Hunzaii areas, go to this link.
About Zar Nigar Tojik:
Zar Nigar Tojik lives in Hunza, Gilgit Baltistan (Northern Areas of Pakistan), and believes that living in a mountainous region taught her many important lessons. It made her dreams unique, made her see the sky a little nearer, and made her think “highly” of how to live her life. Ambitious within her field of human rights activism as well as the art of being a good listener, she started her journey into the city not long ago. “I am interested in unsung stories of people and researching vulnerable communities. Recently, I finished my Masters degree in Public Policy and currently volunteer my time and knowledge for the betterment of my people.”