As many as 17% of adults in Bangladesh live with mental health issues, said a UN official
In an effort to tackle the social stigma around mental health challenges, Brac has pledged to raise public awareness and provide training on the issue.
The non-government organization has also said it wants to provide communities with culturally appropriate needs-based mental health interventions.
Brac launched its first mental health strategy at a virtual event organized on Wednesday, chaired by its Executive Director Asif Saleh and moderated by Senior Director KAM Morshed.
Dr Nargis Islam, consultant for Brac Institute of Educational Development (IED), presented the details of the strategy at the event.
The blueprint of this strategy comes from the proven para-counsellors model that was developed and executed successfully by Brac IED in the past.
The strategy outlined four strategic aims and associated goals to be met by 2030.
Brac said it was committed to work alongside the government and other stakeholders, to address current and future mental health needs of the country.
Dr Morseda Chowdhury, director of Health, Nutrition and Population Program at Brac, explained the design of a pilot program to test Brac’s mental health model on a large scale.
Mia Seppo, UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, said: “As many as 17% of adults in Bangladesh live with mental health issues. We must cater to the rising need for mental health support by mainstreaming appropriate services within the existing health system. Mental health is just as important as physical health.”
Asif Saleh said: “Brac’s founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed believed mental health and wellbeing as a crucial and overlooked component of public health. Now, particularly against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the toll it has taken on our mental wellbeing, it is time to work together to improve access to mental health services in Bangladesh.”
“We have developed a comprehensive strategy to reach the last mile with mental health services. And now we need other partners - the government, non-government organizations, private actors and development partners - to move the work forward collaboratively.”
In her remarks as chief guest, Prof Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said that mental health was always important and not only during Covid-19.
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“I think mental health issues are still considered as illnesses of rich people in urban areas, and attributed to their being possessed by ghosts in rural areas,” she remarked.
Flora added: “When we talk about mental health or about mental health centres, it is mostly related to mental illness, not mental health. We have to think carefully about it.”
“We don’t have many experts in this area. We have to bear this situation in mind,” she added.
Among others, Dr Erum Mariam, executive director of Brac IED and Dr Robed Amin, line director, Non-Communicable Disease Control (NCDC) of government of Bangladesh, also spoke on the occasion.