History of healthcare services for mentally ill patients in Pakistan can be viewed as before and after the Partition (1947) for convenience. Treatment for psychiatric patients by a medical doctor started with the arrival of Dr Honigberger. He belonged to Hungary and worked as state physician to Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1812. His services were initially limited to families and close relatives of notables. After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Dr Honigberger was appointed in charge of the gunpowder factory and was also asked to treat general patients at the city’s General Hospital, then called Al-Shifa, located outside the Delhi Gate. Dr Honigberger set up a ward for psychiatric patients in this hospital. So the foundation was laid for future psychiatric services in this region. It was no less than an honour for the city of Lahore. It was named Central Lunatic Asylum, as written in the book ‘Thirty Five years in the East’ written by Dr Honigberger.

Later when the British took over Punjab Dr Honigberger transferred his 12 patients to Dr Smith, the district civil surgeon in Lahore. In 1854, Mr Robert Montgomery, the judicial commissioner of Punjab, floated the idea of building a mental hospital at the site where it stands today, but this could not be materialised for certain reasons. Those patients were kept on shifting at various places till 1900 due to various reasons. Till the new mental hospital was established at the present place the patients were given under the supervision of Col. Dr Ewen, a psychiatrist who was appointed as the first medical superintendent. This gentleman headed the hospital till his death in 1914. The hospital remained without a psychiatrist till 1922. Dr Lodge Patch took over as in charge of the hospital. Dr Patch, a psychiatrist worked hard to improve the prevailing conditions and added also new buildings. As a result, the number of patients increased to about 1400. A distinguished psychiatrist of his time, Dr Kraeplin, had also wished to come over here to complete his research during that period.

In 1947, at the time of independence the nation inherited three mental hospitals, one each at Lahore, Hyderabad and Peshawar. There were no qualified psychiatrists to take care of them. The first psychiatrist in a civil setup like that was Dr M. A. A. Aziz who single-handedly served people for years. The late ‘60s and ‘70s saw expansion of psychiatric health services throughout Pakistan and a new mental hospital was established in Dudyal.

The only facility for psychiatric patients in this part of world starting in 1900, turned into Government Mental Hospital and was renamed “ Government Hospital for Psychiatric Diseases” in 1996. The old governing law for these patients “Lunacy Act of 1912” was replaced by “Mental Health Ordinance” in 2001. The hospital was converted to “ Punjab Institute of Mental Health, Lahore” in 2002. Number of staff was increased and new facilities were added to improve services.