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Worried about Mental Health? Take a look at the Solutions in Bangladesh

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LightCastle Analytics Wing
April 8, 2021
Worried about Mental Health? Take a look at the Solutions in Bangladesh

About 22.5 million people in Bangladesh have been found to be suffering from about 13 types of mental disorders in a government survey conducted in 2019. Besides the adult population, 13.6% of children aged between 7 and 17 were also found to be suffering from mental disorders. More alarmingly, the survey found that 92.3% of the adult respondents and 94.5% of child respondents diagnosed with different mental disorders do not receive any treatment. Although Bangladesh has been identified as a country with a vulnerable record in the mental health care sector by the international community, it spends only 0.44% of the national health budget in this sector and has 0.073 psychiatrists per 100,000 population. [1] So, there is a critical need to cater to the mental health needs of Bangladesh and thus, it is also important to look at the current offerings in the mental health sector of Bangladesh. 

The Traditional Mental Health Services in Bangladesh

National Institute of Mental Health and Hospital, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka

Traditional Services have proven inadequate in recent times and have gradually been replaced or supplemented by online services that can provide emergency solutions. Some of the traditional services offered are as follows:

InstitutionMode of operationServices
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)OfflineCounseling (individual + Group)
Child Development Center (CDC)OfflineCounseling (individual + Group)
Psycho-social Counseling Unit Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK)Online & offlineCounseling (individual + Group) 
Psychological Service Center, Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, DUOffline and onlineIndividual  And Couple Counseling
Nasirullah Psychotherapy Unit (NPU) Department of Clinical Psychology, DUOfflineIndividual, Couple, Family, Group, and Child Counseling
Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation (BPF)OfflineIndividual, Couple, and Family Counseling
Figure: Existing Mental Health Platforms and their Services/ Source: Shuni.org[2]

New Generation of Mental Health Services Making their Mark

Life Spring – Redefining Healthcare

The statistics regarding treatment gaps in mental health make it clear that current services are often inadequate and lack the necessary resources to tackle problems round the clock. Therefore, different private organizations and startups have been making a significant entry into the mental health scenario. Some of the noticeable ones are:

LifeSpring

LifeSpring currently has more than 200 mental health professionals working with them and aims to integrate psychological care into all aspects of society. [3]

LifeSpring offers both online and offline services to its clients. The company has recently started to gain attention through social media engagement. Their services include:

  1. Psychological Counseling
  2. Corporate Service
  3. Student Support
  4. Child Development
  5. Online Counseling
  6. Online Psychoeducation etc.

The availability of both online and offline services makes LifeSpring a go-to destination for many people who need assistance with their mental health. 

Moner Bondhu

Moner Bondhu aims to make mental healthcare affordable and accessible for all through online and offline sessions. Since 2016, Moner Bondhu has been tirelessly working for mental health and psycho-social awareness in Bangladesh in six different areas.

  • Providing professional psychosocial counseling support via 24/7 helpline number, online and offline
  • Organizing group sessions, workshops, and training including corporate training, and soft skill training using both online and traditional platforms. 
  • Developing toolkits, knowledge products, courses, and training modules for individuals and groups
  • Hosting ‘Amar Moner Kotha’, a weekly radio program on ColoursFM 101.6
  • Broadcasting a television show to openly talk about psychosocial issues
  • Advocating for the psychosocial services with narratives, awareness-based content, animations, leaflets, stickers, videos, etc.

Apart from this, Moner Bondhu provides customized psycho-social mental health support and well-being services to many organizations, corporate offices, financial institutions, and educational institutes (schools, both Bengali and English medium, colleges, and universities). 

Moner Bondhu works for all socioeconomic backgrounds, and by building an extensive support network, it has been able to access even the remote areas of the country. However, as the price is an important consideration for most people, Moner Bondhu partners up with different organizations to reduce costs and share resources, and make mental healthcare accessible for all. They set an example by becoming the first mental health partner of BGMEA. Subsequently, they developed the country’s first mental well-being center for RMG workers. 


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Moreover, their development toolkits include baseline surveys and other tools that are being used in different schools in Dhaka in collaboration with USAID. Moner Bondhu developed the first-ever 40-hour long online courses in Bangla on behavioral skills on psycho-social issues, consisting of 45 modules. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, they reached a total of 30 lakh people through their online services. As a result, Moner Bondhu is extremely versatile and has cemented its place in the mental health service sector of Bangladesh.

Sajida Foundation and Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic – PHWC

SAJIDA Foundation began in 1987 as a small garage school for disadvantaged children and has grown to be an inclusive social organization that offers healthcare services and other social services for more than 6 million people.

The Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic (PHWC) was established in 2017 in partnership with SAJIDA Foundation. It has become a renowned name in the mental health arena with a wide offering of services. It has multiple services that are designed to cater to all demographics. Besides general mental health facilities, it also provides corporate wellness services such as:

  1. Employee Assistance Program
  2. Corporate Seminars
  3. Group Counselling
  4. Crisis Intervention 

PHWC also provides training to professionals and non-professionals. Some of these training modules are:

  1. Mental Health First Aid
  2. Para-Counselling
  3. Basic Mental Health Skills etc.

Besides these set training modules, PHWC also provides custom modules.

Moner Daktar

Moner Daktar is a concern of Telepsychiatry Research and Innovation Network Ltd. and it offers services through its vast network of healthcare professionals. They have 3 main offerings:

  1. Psychiatric Consultation
  2. Psychotherapy and Counselling
  3. Mental Health Assessments

The assessment has been specially designed for Bangladesh keeping all cultural and language factors in mind.

Psycure Organization

Psycure provides counseling on suicide prevention, depression, anxiety, and career solutions and has been growing fast in the past few years. Having connected with around 25000 people, psycure is trying to fight the stigma against mental health through different awareness campaigns as well. 

Figure: Comparative of the different players in the Mental Health Service Industry of Bangladesh

Current Obstacles to improving mental health services

Mental Health constitutes a major public health challenge, undermining social and economic development throughout much of the developing world. In Bangladesh, mental health remains ignored as only 0.44% of the total health budget is allocated towards mental health. [4]

  1. Financial Burden

With 65% out of the pocket spending on healthcare, mental health services become burdensome for people from the lower-income segments as mental health services are already more expensive. [4] 

  1. Lack of Personnel

Bangladesh suffers from a lack of personnel in the healthcare sector. There are only 3.05 physicians and 1.07 nurses per 10,000 people in the country. [5] Most of these professionals are focused on urban areas. The situation is even worse in the mental health sector as mental health professionals are extremely tough to come by. 

  1. Social Stigma

There are multiple social stigmas associated with mental health problems and treatment in Bangladesh. Although the situation has been improving, the general outlook of society prevents patients from seeking the help that they need. As a result, 92.3% of people with mental health issues do not seek any professional help. [6]

  1. Policy Weakness

A very small portion of the budget is allocated toward mental health services and this is reflected in the lack of resources available for mental health patients throughout the country. This weakness in policy has eventually created more systematic problems in different parts of society. 

The Way Forward

The way forward for mental health services will require a strong combination of support from the healthcare sector (both public and private), as well as public health policy experts. The following recommendations can make ameliorate the mental health sector of Bangladesh moving forward:

  1. The budget allocation has to be improved with more provision for the health sector.
  2. Educational Institutions such as schools, colleges, universities, etc., should have mandatory mental health support facilities from certified professionals. 
  3. More training institutions for mental health professionals have to be created to ensure their availability.
  4. Peer support groups have been seen to be very effective for mental health issues, and so these groups have to be encouraged through exposure and funding.
  5. Startups working with mental health have to be encouraged through funding and support from both public and private sources. These modern-day solutions have the power to reach out to the youth and connect with them on a personal level.
  6. Increased awareness of mental health services through public health campaigns

In conclusion, mental health services have historically been tough to come by in Bangladesh because of the lack of recognition of the problem. It is a matter of hope that these problems are starting to be recognized throughout the country, and people are looking for contemporary solutions, instead of sticking to traditional ones. Therefore, the development of infrastructure is critical and should be prioritized to accommodate the new waves of people that are actively trying to seek help and both public and private organizations need to step forward to pave the way forward.

Eqra Mohammad Resalat Ohee Trainee Consultant, and Farah Hamud Khan, Senior Business Consultant & Project Manager, at LightCastle Partners, have prepared the write-up. For further clarifications, contact here: [email protected]

References

  1. Adult Population: 2.25cr suffer from mental disorders – The Daily Star
  2. MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES DIRECTORY, DHAKA BANGLADESH – Shuni.Org
  3. Mental Health and the Health System in Bangladesh: Situation Analysis of a Neglected Domain – Researchgate
  4. Global Health Workforce Alliance – World Health Organization
  5. 16.8% of Bangladeshi adults suffer from mental health issues – Dhaka Tribune

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WRITTEN BY: LightCastle Analytics Wing

At LightCastle, we take a data-driven approach to create opportunities for growth and impact. We consult and collaborate with development partners, the public sector, and private organizations to promote inclusive economic growth that positively changes the lives of people at scale. Being a data-driven and transparent organization, we believe in democratizing knowledge and information among the stakeholders of the economy to drive inclusive growth.

For further clarifications, contact here: [email protected]

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