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Elevating Minds, Enriching Lives: The Journey of a Dedicated Psychiatrist

Step into the extraordinary world of Dr. Saima Niaz, where compassion meets expertise, and every interaction spark transformation. In the dynamic realm of mental health advocacy and clinical excellence, Dr. Niaz stands as a guiding light, illuminating paths to healing and hope.


You have an extensive background in various areas of psychiatry, including General Adult Psychiatry, Perinatal Psychiatry, and Forensic Psychiatry. How has your experience across these diverse fields influenced your perspective on mental health care and awareness?

My experience across various fields of psychiatry, including General Adult Psychiatry, Perinatal Psychiatry, and Forensic Psychiatry, has significantly shaped and broadened my perspective on mental health care and awareness.

In General Adult Psychiatry, I have had the opportunity to work with individuals across a wide spectrum of mental health conditions, from mood disorders like depression and anxiety disorders and psychosis from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and more. This exposure has reinforced the understanding that mental health issues are pervasive and can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background. It has underscored the importance of early intervention, destigmatisation, and accessible mental health services for all. 

Perinatal Psychiatry has given me insights into the unique challenges faced by women during pregnancy and the postpartum period. This field has emphasized the significance of addressing mental health concerns in pregnant and postpartum individuals, not only for their well-being but also for the healthy development of their children. 

In Forensic Psychiatry, I have worked with individuals involved in the criminal justice system who have mental health issues. My experiences in this field have deepened my appreciation for the ethical complexities, the importance of rehabilitation and treatment within the forensic context and the need for specialized care for individuals at the intersection of mental health and the law.

Overall, my diverse background in these fields has made me more aware of the interconnectedness of mental health with various aspects of life, from family dynamics to legal processes. It has reinforced the importance of holistic, patient-centred care that considers the unique needs and circumstances of every person. It has also emphasized the need for ongoing mental health education and awareness to reduce stigma and promote early intervention.

Your dedication to mental health awareness during the COVID-19 pandemic is commendable. Could you share a specific example of a challenging situation you encountered while providing mental health support to the Asian community, and how you effectively addressed it?

Thank you for your kind words. One significant challenge I faced while providing mental health support to the Asian community during the COVID-19 pandemic was the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health issues. In many Asian cultures, there is a prevailing reluctance to openly discuss and address mental health concerns due to fear of judgment and cultural norms.

To address this challenge, I took a culturally sensitive approach. I conducted outreach within the community through trusted community leaders, organizations, TV channels, radio, social and print media. I prepared educational videos, appeared in interviews on radio and TV channels both in Urdu and English languages to create awareness. 

By combining these strategies, I was able to gradually break down the stigma surrounding mental health in the Asian community and provide valuable support to those in need during these challenging times.

As the Fellow of College of Physician and Surgeons Pakistan and a Consultant Psychiatrist in the UK, you’ve navigated both the Pakistani and British healthcare systems. What similarities and differences have you observed in the approaches to mental health care and awareness in these two contexts?

Having had the privilege of being the Fellow of College of Physician and Surgeons Pakistan and working as a Consultant Psychiatrist in the United Kingdom, I have indeed had the opportunity to observe both the Pakistani and British healthcare systems in the context of mental health care and awareness. It’s important to note that healthcare systems can vary significantly, and my observations are based on my experiences and my knowledge. 


Stigma associated with mental health issues is a common challenge in both Pakistan and the UK. In both countries, there has been a growing effort to reduce stigma and increase awareness of mental health problems. This includes initiatives aimed at destigmatizing mental illness and encouraging individuals to seek help when needed.

Both Pakistan and the UK have made efforts to integrate mental health services into their broader healthcare systems. This integration allows for a more holistic approach to healthcare, where mental health is considered an essential component of overall well-being.

In both countries, mental health professionals undergo rigorous training and education to become qualified practitioners. The standards for education and training in psychiatry are generally high, ensuring that healthcare providers are well-equipped to address mental health issues.


One of the significant differences lies in the allocation of resources to mental health services. In the UK, there has been a consistent focus on allocating adequate resources to mental health, resulting in a comparatively well-funded and accessible mental health system. Pakistan, on the other hand, has faced resource challenges, leading to limitations in the availability and accessibility of mental health services.

Mental health care approaches in Pakistan are often influenced by cultural norms and beliefs. The role of the family and community in providing support and care for individuals with mental health issues is prominent. In the UK, while cultural diversity is acknowledged and respected, mental health care is more standardized and less influenced by cultural factors.

The accessibility of mental health care services can vary significantly between the two countries. In the UK, there is a greater emphasis on equitable access to care, with services available to a broader range of socioeconomic groups. In Pakistan, disparities in access to mental health services exist, particularly in rural areas and among marginalized populations.

The legal framework governing mental health care differs in both countries. The UK has well-established mental health legislation that governs the treatment and rights of individuals with mental illness. Pakistan has also made progress in developing mental health legislation, yet there is a pressing need for significant attention to ensure its effective implementation and enforcement.

In conclusion, these variations highlight the unique challenges and priorities each country faces in mental health care, emphasizing the need for context-specific policies and practices.

Your involvement in organizations like the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and the British Pakistani Psychiatrists Association showcases your commitment to mental health advocacy. How do these affiliations intersect, and how do they collectively contribute to improving mental health support?

My involvement in organizations such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych), and the British Pakistani Psychiatrists Association, underscores my dedicated commitment to advancing mental health advocacy. These affiliations intersect in a manner that aligns with the overarching goal of enhancing mental health support in the United Kingdom.

Serving as a member and the Executive member of Transcultural special interest group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists allows me to engage with a diverse community of mental health professionals. The RCPsych is at the forefront of advocating for improved mental health services, influencing government policies, and addressing mental health disparities, which aligns with my commitment to ensuring equitable access to mental health care for all.

I am an official member of the London Division Executive Committee. Recently, I have been appointed as London (South East) Division Regional Speciality Representative for General Adult Psychiatry. I am lifetime member of the British Pakistani Psychiatrists Association (BPPA), executive member of current leading body, London Chapter head of the BPPA. The BPPA focuses on addressing mental health challenges within the British Pakistani community, acknowledging that cultural factors can significantly impact individuals’ experiences and perceptions of mental health. I am honoured to be spotlighted in the  Royal College of Psychiatrists Annual Congress Impact Report 31st December 2022, alongside colleagues from the BPPA.

What is your role in Conservative Friends of the NHS, and how does it contribute to your efforts in advocating for mental health within the healthcare system, particularly in terms of funding, infrastructure improvement, and comprehensive services?

As a member of the Conservative Friends of the NHS, I work towards bridging the gap between the healthcare professionals and the Conservative Party. Mental health is an integral part of the NHS, and my involvement in this group allows me to advocate for increased funding, improved infrastructure, and comprehensive mental health services within the NHS. I selflessly devoted my personal time to inspire doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to actively participate in politics and advocate for the healthcare. I was the part of organising multiple groups of healthcare professionals to visit crucial government venues, including No.10 Downing Street, leading to remarkable progress in improving ties between the NHS staff and the Government.

Collectively, these affiliations enable me to foster collaborations, share expertise, and influence policies and practices that address the multifaceted challenges faced by individuals seeking mental health support.

Your work with the Association of Pakistani Physicians and Surgeons United Kingdom (APPSUK) involved producing educational videos in Urdu for the Pakistani community. Could you share a success story where you felt your videos made a significant impact on raising awareness about mental health within this community?

The Association of Pakistani Physicians and Surgeons of the United Kingdom (APPSUK) is the voice for doctors of Pakistani heritage. It is a non-profit and non-political organisation. It provides a platform for support and guidance to doctors and medical students in the UK. It raises health awareness in the wider community in the UK as well as in Pakistan. I hold the position of Social Secretary in APPSUK. 

Certainly, my work with the Association of Pakistani Physicians and Surgeons United Kingdom (APPSUK) in producing educational videos in Urdu for the Pakistani community has been a fulfilling endeavour, and I would be pleased to share a success story that highlights the impact of our efforts in raising awareness about mental health within this community.

I received positive feedback from across the globe that my videos were culturally sensitive, relatable and emphasizing the importance of seeking professional help. My work was shared across multiple social media and other channels to create awareness related to stress, mental health, coronavirus, Covid-19 vaccine MythBusters and to encourage vaccine uptake. I received acknowledgement for my work from the Mayor of London for reaching out to the diverse communities in 2020 and 2021. The Pakistan High Commission, London prominently shared my work on their website and media handles. Some of my colleagues called me an “Ambassador” to public.  

Soon after the release of these videos, I received an overwhelming response from the community. One particularly impactful instance was when a middle-aged woman from the Pakistani community came forward to share her own journey with mental health struggles. She revealed that my videos had encouraged her to seek professional help for her anxiety and depression, a step she had previously been hesitant to take due to societal pressures.

In summary, my educational videos in Urdu have indeed made a significant impact on raising awareness about mental health within the Pakistani community.

Being a member of the Executive Committee of the Transcultural special interest group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists indicates your dedication to addressing cultural and ethnic diversity in mental health care. How do you approach bridging cultural gaps and providing culturally sensitive care for diverse populations?

As a member of the Executive Committee of the Transcultural Special Interest Group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, I am deeply committed to the critical mission of addressing cultural and ethnic diversity in mental health care. 

Cultural competence is increasingly crucial, particularly in London, known as the most ethnically diverse region. Language can be a significant barrier to mental health care. I continuously invest in developing cultural competence by staying informed about the latest research, trends, and best practices in transcultural psychiatry. 

An essential step in providing culturally sensitive care is to conduct thorough cultural assessments. This involves recognising that everyone’s cultural background influences their beliefs, values, and perceptions of mental health. By conducting culturally informed assessments, we can tailor treatment plans to meet the unique needs of each patient.

I approach my work with cultural humility, recognizing that I may not have personal experiences or insights into every cultural background. I learn from my patients and colleagues from diverse backgrounds and adapt my approach based on their input and feedback.

I contribute by sharing knowledge and resources with fellow professionals to promote a culture of cultural sensitivity and inclusivity.

Lastly, I am committed to continuous self-reflection and self-improvement. I regularly assess my own biases and beliefs to ensure that they do not hinder my ability to provide culturally sensitive care.

You’ve chaired invited lecture sessions at prestigious events like the World Psychiatric Association’s Thematic Congress and represented the Royal College of Psychiatrists at career fairs. How do you see your role in these events contributing to shaping the future of psychiatry and mental health?

First and foremost, serving as the chair of invited lecture sessions provided me with a unique platform to facilitate the dissemination of cutting-edge research, innovative therapeutic approaches, and emerging trends in the field of psychiatry. By curating these sessions, I can ensure that the latest advancements are presented to a diverse audience of experts, professionals, and stakeholders from around the world. This fosters the exchange of knowledge, encourages collaboration, and catalyses the adoption of evidence-based practices in psychiatric care. In doing so, it not only elevates the quality of patient care but also contributes to the ongoing refinement of the field itself.

Representing the Royal College of Psychiatrists at career fairs *Make me a Medic* Career’s Fair in April 2023, I inspire the next generation of mental health professionals and ensure a skilled workforce for evolving challenges. The psychiatry stall garnered immense popularity among the students, as it captivated their curiosity and ignited a genuine passion for delving deeper into the field of psychiatry. These roles also facilitate networking and international collaboration, essential for addressing global mental health issues collectively. 

Additionally, these events provide a platform for networking and collaboration with colleagues, both nationally and internationally. Building connections with professionals from different backgrounds and experiences allows for the exchange of ideas and best practices, which can lead to groundbreaking innovations in the field of psychiatry. Collaboration on a global scale is increasingly vital as mental health issues transcend geographic boundaries and require a collective effort to address effectively.

Your involvement in Allama Iqbal Medical College Alumni UK’s scholarship project showcases your commitment to education and philanthropy. Can you share a heartwarming story of how this scholarship has positively impacted a student’s journey in pursuing a medical career?

AIMCAUK sponsored 21 deserving students in 2023, making a significant impact. One inspiring story is of Sara (name changed for the purpose of confidentiality), a student from a humble background who overcame financial constraints with the scholarship’s help. This scheme provided her with financial support, resources, and networking opportunities, enabling her to complete her medical degree and become an inspiration for others. Sara now works in the UK and sponsors another student, highlighting the scholarship’s transformative impact on individuals and healthcare. 

Sara’s success stands as a testament to the profound and lasting impact of this scholarship, illustrating how it empowers individuals to reach their full potential and make a positive difference in the lives of others and in the field of healthcare.

You’ve been recognized through awards and acknowledgments for your contributions to mental health awareness. Could you share a moment when you felt that your work had a particularly profound effect on an individual or community, and what emotions did it evoke in you?

One memorable moment was when I helped a patient with long-term depression and trauma who found relief through personalized therapy. After several months of consistent approach and therapy, the patient regained their interest in activities they once enjoyed, reconnected with loved ones, and began expressing a newfound sense of hope for the future. Witnessing their transformation, from rediscovering satisfaction in life to rebuilding relationships, filled me with profound fulfilment. This experience reminded me of the importance of our mission of spreading hope and recovery and the positive ripple effect it can have on individuals and communities. It filled me with gratitude, pride, and motivation to continue the work.

Your bio reflects a rich tapestry of roles, from a Consultant Psychiatrist to Deputy Chairman of The Conservative Friends of the NHS. With such a diverse portfolio, how do you manage to balance your clinical responsibilities, advocacy efforts, and voluntary work while maintaining a strong commitment to mental health promotion?

Balancing my roles as a Consultant Psychiatrist, Deputy Chairman of The Conservative Friends of the NHS, and my involvement in various voluntary endeavours while upholding a steadfast commitment to mental health promotion has been both challenging and rewarding. I believe that each facet of my professional and voluntary engagement complements the others, and my approach to managing this diversity is rooted in several key principles. 

Effective time management is essential in juggling multiple roles. I meticulously plan my schedule, allocating specific blocks of time for clinical work and volunteer commitments. This methodical approach ensures that every aspect of my work receives the appropriate attention. I prioritize my responsibilities based on their impact and urgency. Delegating tasks and responsibilities allow me to focus on strategic planning and decision-making.

I believe that promoting mental health and advocating for healthcare reforms often benefit from interdisciplinary collaboration. I allocate time for ongoing education and professional development to ensure that I am equipped to make informed decisions and provide the best care possible to my patients. 

Maintaining my own mental and physical well-being is vital. I prioritise self-care practices, such as regular exercise, and seeking support when needed, to ensure I have the energy and resilience to fulfil my responsibilities effectively.

In conclusion, while managing a diverse portfolio of roles can be demanding, the key to success lies in effective time management, strategic prioritization, collaboration, continuous learning, self-compassion, and a strong alignment of values. These principles empower me to maintain a balance between my clinical duties and voluntary work, all while steadfastly prioritising mental health promotion.

What was the award you received on December 9th, 2023, and what role does it play in your involvement with the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) and your advocacy for women’s issues?

I am deeply honoured to have received the Ambassador of Peace award from the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), an NGO holding General Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. UPF`s mission is to unite humanity under universal principles, fostering dialogue and understanding. UPF work with Ambassadors for Peace globally, promoting moral values, strong families, inter-religious cooperation, international harmony, and a culture of peace. I am grateful for the trust bestowed upon me for this esteemed role. Additionally, I have had the privilege of speaking at the events held by UPF on topics pertaining to peace and women’s issues.

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