The Day The Mountains Moved

Published in Books & Authors (Daily Dawn) on September 23, 2007 – Original Link
By Ayesha Hoda

Edited by Unaiza Niaz
Sama Editorial & Publishing Services, Karachi
In collaboration with
Institute of Psycho Trauma Pakistan (IPTP), Karachi
ISBN 969-8784-52-7
277pp. Rs375

THE day the mountains moved is a documentation of the mental health services provided in the aftermath of October 8, 2005, the day the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) in Pakistan, witnessed the worst earthquake of modern times. Around 73,000 people lost their lives while four million became homeless as a result of the disaster.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs when a person’s psychological defences are unable to cope with extreme stress. An extreme level of stress is one of the consequences of such natural disasters. This book has been divided into two sections: one presenting the Pakistani perspective on handling PTSD, and the other providing a brief look into international perspectives. Over 29 experts have contributed to the book, including Dr Unaiza Niaz who has also compiled and edited the chapters.

Niaz is a renowned psychiatrist and psychotherapist based in Karachi, with several articles and scientific publications to her credit. She is also the director of the Institute of Psycho Trauma Pakistan (IPTP). In her words, this book ‘is the story of IPTP in the last one year’ and ‘a modest attempt to share and document our experiences as mental health professionals.’

The catastrophe of October 8, like any other natural disaster of such magnitude, created a need for psychosocial support. Most victims suffered from psychological distress, and several others from mental disorders such as psychosis, depression, severe disabling anxiety, substance abuse, etc.

Unfortunately and rather alarmingly, Pakistan has a ratio of one psychiatrist per five lakh people, with even poorer proportions in Kashmir. In view of this the IPTP, which had only just been established on October 3, 2005, strove to spread awareness about the importance of psychological treatment to counter the shock experienced due to such unpredictable and sudden calamities. Keeping in mind the stigma attached to seeking psychosocial support, a programme was devised by IPTP and other mental health agencies and professionals to reach victims effectively and help them recover from the trauma.

The importance of cultural context was realised and lessons derived from the recent Tsunami psychosocial measures and literature. There were efforts to put an end to the various rumours circulating in the quake-hit areas, which could further add to the anxiety experienced by the local population. Details of plans, workshops, research and other activities have been provided in the book, along with some photographs, to give a clear picture of the kind of work that was carried out. The contributors have elaborated on their individual approach to the disaster and their specific areas of interest.

The book highlights a wide range of subtopics such as gender perspectives, media as a tool for therapy, art therapy for children, and so on. The international section gives a general overview of the psychological impact of natural disasters, behavioural treatments, research issues, etc, with examples from different regions to illustrate these more effectively.

On the whole, the book will prove to be useful for psychiatrists, psychologists, NGOs and social workers. The reader cannot help but realise the need for more people to enter the mental health profession, as the services provided by such professionals are quite indispensable.


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