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Raising awareness for women's mental health via Facebook

  • Published at 05:41 pm March 8th, 2020
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Especially women living with mental health conditions do not know when and where to seek help for mental healthcare

In a society where seeking mental health advice is considered a taboo, a forum on Facebook has been raising awareness in an attempt to address the issue of mental health of women.

Kamrun Nahar Koly, assistant scientist, at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), understood that there is a lack of understanding and a prevailing stigma in our society surrounding mental health.

Kamrun decided to take action and pursued a career as a public health researcher at icddr,b to work on areas relating to mental health.

A person’s emotional and psychological well-being depends on his or her mental health condition. A person’s mental health condition determines how they think, act and feel, and how they handle a stressful situation, depression and anxiety.

But because of social stigma and lack of understanding and education on mental health, people are not aware that this could turn into a vulnerable disease.

Especially women living with mental health conditions do not know when and where to seek help for mental healthcare.

In view of this, Kamrun founded the Women Support Initiative Forum (WSIF) on Facebook in 2018. The forum works to support women through raising awareness, training an alternative workforce, and peer support methods that are mainly based on Facebook.

“When I established the Women Support Initiative Forum (WSIF), I realized that there are so many opportunities through which I can do something directly for the society particularly for the vulnerable groups such as women.

"Facebook is the platform of choice to provide mental health education as this is the easiest way to reach so many people together. In Bangladesh, though women are busy with their daily household chores, work and raising their family - they are still very active on Facebook,” said Dr Kamrun.

Kamrun has built two communities online. A closed group for women called Women For Each Other (by WSIF) that allows members to share ideas and exchange knowledge to help each other overcome life and mental health issues.

Posts from different users outlining personal challenges are responded to by peers. These posts are overseen by moderators who are doctors to ensure those who need help are identified early and are connected to external doctors to provide help and treatment.

Kamrun works with close to 30 volunteers whom she refers to as Psychosocial Supporters (PSS) to support the women in the Group. For the more personal issues, the PSS connects with members through Facebook Messenger to provide one to one support.

For more serious issues, the PSS actively refers these women to seek professional help and connects them to a suitable doctor from their robust network of experts who provide mental health care in Bangladesh. All of which are done free of charge.

The second, a Page called Women Support Initiative Forum –WSIF, which serves as an educational tool that raises awareness of mental health issues amongst Bangladeshis. It does so through motivational and informative posts that sheds light on what mental health looks like and how people can go about to speak out about it, or seek help.

In just two years,  both communities have grown to more than 27,000 members collectively, and continue to attract more people daily. 

However, Kamrun didn’t want to stop there. She also curates regular group workshops offline, conducted by expert psychologists and psychiatrists to deep dive into topics such as depression, anger management, and dealing with stress and anxiety etc.

Together with the PSS, they pre assess each topic through collating feedback on both of her WSIF Facebook communities. The workshops are also broadcasted on Facebook live so that group members who can’t attend the sessions physically can listen in from their homes. As of today, they have conducted a total of 22 sessions with 2000 participants.

Kamrun said: “I encourage everyone to join our WSIF Facebook communities to understand what mental health looks like and seek treatment at the earliest. Join me in breaking the stigma against mental health in Bangladesh!”

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