Dr Ayesha Mian, chair of the department of psychiatry at Aga Khan University, has been recognised with a lifetime achievement award from the University of Missouri-Columbia’s International Center for Psychosocial Trauma and the University’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Alumni Association.
The award acknowledges her outstanding leadership, impactful mentorship of medical students and emerging psychiatrists, and her efforts towards improving the mental health for children and adolescents.
Poor mental health is a global burden, with mental health disorders being the highest cause of disability worldwide. Pakistan is no exception with 1 in 5 children and adolescents requiring help for mental health disorders, that rounds up to approximately 20 million in need of psychiatric help. Adolescent depression, anxiety, behavioral problems, suicidal ideation and suicidal behaviors are common in our youth with an estimated 15,000 suicides in Pakistan every year, three-quarters of those under the age of 30, according to recent published data.
Speaking about the award, Dr Mian said: “I am honoured to be acknowledged for my work in child and adolescent psychiatry through this award. The previous recipients have been internationally renowned leaders in the field, some of whom have been my mentors, and I feel proud to be considered in their league."
During her time at AKU, Dr Mian has developed clinical services for children and adolescents with mental health illnesses, and has promoted child mental health through internationally-recognised educational endeavours.
She rates the development of the first child and adolescent psychiatry training programme in Pakistan as being one of her most significant initiatives. “With only 4-6 fully trained paediatric psychiatrics in the country where 60 per cent of our population is under the age of 25 years, it was imperative to put child and adolescent mental health on the map,” said Dr Mian.
She added that it is unfortunate that people remain unwilling to talk about their psychological wellbeing. “The stigma isn’t restricted to the community at large; we face this stigma amongst health professionals every day.”
Dr Mian, MBBS ‘98 has also led the development of a ten-week psychiatry certificate course that trains close to 500 medical students every year, and recently a 4-module child psychiatry certificate course for paediatricians, general physicians and psychologists.
“These programmes are led and primarily taught by residents, fellows and faculty that I closely work with; and it has been a singular pleasure mentoring and watching them take leadership in developing programmes and services that promise to have significant community impact over the coming years.”
Dr Mian’s efforts have centered on awareness raising and bringing mental health in general and child and youth mental health in particular, on the radar. Her previous awards have also focused on her efforts to improve the acute workforce shortage of child and adolescent mental health professionals by mentoring competent, thoughtful and diligent physicians in the field. Her work to enable dialogue between physicians, patients, donors and the general community on mental health, has also seen her become a leading figure in academic child and adolescent psychiatry.
“In the end, it is all about our children and youth,” said Dr Mian. “They are our tomorrow. We have to look after them today.”
Dr Mian co-chairs the International Relations Committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), serves on the Executive Council of International Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professional (IACAPAP) as a co-director of the Donald J. Cohen Fellowship Program, and has been awarded the prestigious Distinguished Fellowship by the AACAP for her longstanding dedicated service towards the improvement of mental health of children and adolescents.
Dr Mian acknowledged AKU’s instrumental role in shaping her career, explaining how she found her true calling once she started her clinical years in medical school. “The training I received at AKU, the dedication of our teachers, their compassionate care and drive towards excellence has always been an inspiration.”