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"Child Mental Health Matters" Conference on Child Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities

The World Psychiatric Association, Pakistan Psychiatric Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry Sidra Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine (Doha, Qatar) & Child and Family Psychiatry Department, King Edward Medical University, Lahore, recently partnered to host an International Conference on Child Mental Health, Autism & Learning Disabilities in Fountain House Lahore, Pakistan.

Pakistan's President, Dr Arif Alvi, opened the conference by recognising the scarcity of human and economic resources to support Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) initiatives. He said that despite universal recognition of the importance of CAMH for society, limited human and economic resources mean a population health approach incorporating promotion, prevention, and treatment is what is currently required. WPA President Elect, Prof Afzal Javed, suggested that the way to bridge this gap between the burden of CAMH problems and the resources available to service them, was to promote the mental health of all young people, whether or not they are suffering from mental health problems.

Following these introductory remarks, presentations from international experts covered a range of topics across the theme:

  • Dr Durre Shahwar and Dr Ahsan Nazeer from Sidra Medicine Qatar focused on the assessment and management of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Noting the dramatic increase in the prevalence of ASD globally, they discussed how early detection - and early intervention - has a positive impact on prognosis.

  • Dr Zeeshan, an expert from the US, discussed Infant/ Parent Mental Health. He noted that infant mental health can be understood as "the developing capacity of the 0-5-year-old child to experience, regulate and express emotions, and learn within the psychological balance of the parent-infant relationship without serious disruption caused by harmful life events." He used "still face experiment" and the concept of "ghosts and angels in nursery" to further elaborate the theme.

  • Dr. Muhammad Ather covered Assessment and Management in Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents. He described various types of anxiety disorders which severely disrupt child functioning in various domains of life including academic achievements, peer and family relationships, leisure activities as well as functioning at home.

  • Dr Nazish Imran, discussed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders in children throughout the world. Persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity (often extending into adulthood) can cause significant impairment in the normal functioning of children - disrupting the child’s relationships and also decreasing their performance at school.

  • Prof Waqar Azeem talked about Depression in children and adolescents. He observed that depression often starts in adolescence and is associated with psychosocial impairment and high risk of suicide. Noting that suicide is the third leading reason of death among adolescents, he shared that extreme academic pressure is one of the leading causes of depression in young people in Pakistan.

The meeting was well attended by senior consultants, paediatricians, postgraduate trainees, psychologists and students. Professor Khalid Mufti and Prof Khalida Tareen were guests of honour for the occasion.


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