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Mental Health and Bangladesh: Where are we?

Picture: Allison Joyce, The Guardian


Maisha Islam Monamee


Mental health and other issues under this subject are a group of alienated discussions we often tend to avoid or worse, are completely unaware of. The ones who advocate for these issues comprise mostly of individuals who can relate to the struggles, often due to personal experiences, and have learned these lessons the hard way, through therapy and counselling, and in the worst-case scenario, after surviving a suicide attempt.

What is alarming is the fact that we all turn to the internet for resources on how to tackle these issues. This clearly highlights the lack of conversations surrounding the topic. So, why do we ignore these necessary conversations? Why do we wait before reaching the threshold? What holds us and these discussions back? These are some questions I have always wondered about and have tried answering throughout this article.

To initiate discussions around mental health, we need to lift the prominent veil of shame and stigma associated with the word. Let’s get this straight — having mental health issues is not equivalent to being crazy, no matter how bad things are. The void killing you from inside does not certify you as a maniac. The agony you go through is not related to mental imbalance. People who are brave enough to lend a voice to their inner struggles are not mad. Advocacy begins with the elimination of social barriers obstructing enlightenment, and as young advocates who are passionate to bring about change, we must eradicate the veil before addressing more serious issues.

So, talk about your experiences, let people know that they can relate to it, share your story, let it be heard, and lend an ear to people who have no one else to turn to. There’s no better way to address the issue without holding regular conversations — at schools, in office premises, on social media, and ultimately in global conferences. The fact that the mind needs to be taken care of needs to be propagated among all levels, so people can identify and heal themselves, even without external support.

Talking about identifying an issue is where awareness plays a role. People dealing with anxiety and frustration often don’t know that these are small signs leading to a bigger problem. The shame-game also restricts people from seeking counselling services or asking for professional help. In the end, it all keeps circling, building a larger storm that is waiting to explode. At that point, when it’s too late, we realise that everything has been done the wrong way.

Thus, we need more resources available in schools, workplaces, and hospitals so that people can identify their symptoms and seek immediate help. The education system needs to normalise these discussions. A psychiatrist must be accessible in institutions at all levels. We need to instil the importance of a healthy mind from an early age and parents need to play an important role in introducing this topic.

With all this said and done, let’s revisit the points. These discussions mostly concern young people and students. Looking at the larger demographic, we are ignoring a major section of our society. What about our parents, teachers, and other elderly people? Have we ever thought about their mental space? I believe that these people are more prone to mental illness, carrying society’s burden of responsibilities and being completely unaware of what is going on inside.

These people are so engrossed in their work that they have little time to reflect on themselves. Some parents might be caring enough to discuss these issues with their children, but are they discussing their own problems? While running in this race of life, are they thinking about themselves?

The answer would be no, in most cases. Do you know why? Because these resources and talks are always restricted to younger participants. It is because everyone associates mental health as an idea created by young people. It is because many people think that depression is not an illness. So, would more resources help? According to psychiatrists working in Bangladesh, enough resources are available to help people, if they wish to help themselves.

But we need to make these resources accessible to everyone. Our parents need to feel the line between anger and a mental breakdown. They need to feel what is going wrong. And we need to keep them aware of things going around us. I know it is easier said than done. I have come across many friends who wish to help their parents, but are not sure how they could do so without invading their privacy. Is there a solution? Well, yes there is.

It’s practically impossible to check on everyone. So, a great way to start off with is by citing examples. Share stories of recovery so they can feel safe enough to speak of their problems. Talk to them about your mental health episodes, and tell them how talking helps. Watch movies and shows that subtly involve these discussions. Discuss organisations that aid people in these cases. Provide them with self-help resources — this could be a good book or a recent article you read.

Make them feel like you’re there for them, no matter what. It doesn’t take a lot to do so and once you start, there’s no end.

 


This piece was created in collaboration with BRAC-CGSRHR, BLAST, and CREA under the project “Strengthening the voices and capacities for addressing gender based violence”.


The writer is a part of TDA Editorial Team.

 

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