PAKISTANI actress Mahira Khan has been appointed as the new ambassador of the British Asian Trust to support its work across south Asia.
Khan has been supporting the charity’s Peace of Mind campaign which aims to raise awareness about mental health issues in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The trust, founded by the Prince of Wales, said on Wednesday (13) that it plans to scale up its work to reach more people and provide more access to community-based healthcare, referrals and support.
Marginalised children who have suffered severe trauma will be its priority.
Khan, one of the most successful actresses in her country, said the mental health work of the charity in Pakistan has been “ground-breaking, reaching millions of people”.
“There is more to do.”
According to the trust’s chief executive Richard Hawkes, the actress’ voice will be “incredibly powerful in helping us lift the silence on mental health and improve access to services in Pakistan and Bangladesh”.
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, the trust said.
The 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 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, it said.
Without appropriate support, mental health conditions can lead to alcohol and drug dependency, hospitalisation, severe depression and even suicide, the trust added.