Almost one in three of Bangladesh’s population or 50 million people are suffering from mental disorders, according to a 2016 survey by the National Institute of Mental Health and Research (NIMH&R).
But for mental health-related treatment, there are only 790 places and 220 doctors spread across the NIMH&R in Dhaka and the government-run facility at Pabna Mental Hospital.
The figures provoked condemnation from experts as World Mental Health Day was marked on Tuesday around the theme "Mental health in the workplace".
“The number of experts in this field is scant and mental services are neglected here,” said Dr Mekhla Sarkar of the NIMH&R.
Mekhla attributed the dearth of suitably qualified mental health professionals in Bangladesh to a lack of awareness.
“Mental health is not given importance in medical education and the students also do not show interest in this field. That is why the number of mental health experts is low,” she said.
Dr Mekhla said there was no alternative to awareness. “Whenever any member of the family behaves abnormally, we have to understand that that person is going through mental issues,” the doctor said.
“In that situation, we must extend a helping hand instead of pushing that person away. If we do that, it will help create a sense of safety, dependency and confidence in the patient.”
The doctor said that we were becoming victims of mental illnesses as the space to express ourselves was gradually shrinking.
Prof Dr Salauddin Kawsar Biplob, of the psychology department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said Bangladesh lacked facilities to provide the patients with required assistance.
“We cannot deny the scarcity of medical services [and] shortage of doctors. We also do not have people to raise awareness about the issue,” he said.
World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10 every year, to raise awareness about mental health issues and mobilising efforts in support of better mental health.
According to the World Health Organisation
(WHO), more than 300 million people suffer from depression and over 260 million are living with anxiety disorders across the globe. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity.
The article was first published on Bangla Tribune