The issue of mental health in Bangladesh is something that very few seem interested to talk about, and yet it more important now than ever to have a serious conversation and break the stigma surrounding it.
Our society tends to dismiss the idea that mental health is a legitimate problem, and individuals do who seek mental health services have to face significant barriers, not least of which is resistance from their own families.
The stigma surrounding mental illness just makes matters worse: It creates misinformation and perpetuates ignorance; and sometimes, those in the direst need of help are abandoned by their families out of shame.
It simultaneously prevents individuals from seeking help and medical students from taking a professional interest in mental health, thus creating an acute shortage of doctors.
In fact, we currently have only 220 doctors for 50 million mental health patients in Bangladesh. And the 500-bed Pabna Mental Hospital is run by a team of five doctors, where, according to the staff, many of the patients were deserted by their families and never taken back even after completion of treatment.
The bitter truth is that our society punishes mental illness, even among family members, and this attitude is hurting us on a national level.
In other nations, for example, mental health care has been shown to significantly reduce recidivism -- the tendency to commit a crime for a second time -- among ex-convicts.
If mental health were given its due attention in Bangladesh, we would most likely have much lower rates of crime, drug addiction, and militancy.
Let’s give mental health the care it deserves.