Although mental health is crucial to the overall well-being of individuals, societies and the country, it is largely neglected and often overlooked in Bangladesh. World Health Organisation (WHO) has given utmost importance to promote mental health services and has been campaigning for the full incorporation of mental health in public health. But it is matter of great regret that many people including some of health professionals are very reluctant to give mental health a priority.
About 16.01 per cent adult and 18.35 per cent children are suffering from mental illness in Bangladesh. With this enormous disease burden, a very few number of mental health professionals are struggling to cope with mental disorders. There are only 120 psychiatrists in our country. Other mental health professionals (psychologists, psychiatric nurses etc) are also very limited in number.
WHO published an assessment instrument for mental health system in Bangladesh in 2007. It revealed — there are 0.073 psychiatrist and 0.00071 psychologist per 100000 populations. Total indoor beds for mental patients are only 813 against the whole population (0.58 bed/100000 people). With the lack of resources, we have many negative attitudes to the mental health issues.
WHO stated that mental health is more than the absence of mental illness, and it is vital to individuals, families and societies. Mental health is determined by socioeconomic factors, linked to behaviour. There are lots of impact on mental health from the global warming and climate change, but little crying we hear from the environmentalist on this issue.
Beside the individual disease burden, there is huge impact of mental health on social capital. The level of well being, physical health, knowledge and skill, productivity, quality of relationship, sexual satisfaction, trust, social cohesion all are integrated to mental health and ultimately linked with social capital. Good mental health is also an important resource for families, communities and nations. Mental health is a useful tool in the human rights framework.
Among the global disease burden, mental illnesses pose a bigger place than many of overemphasised physical illnesses. Our attitude towards mental health is running on the wrong track. It is time to change our attitude and false belief. Mental health concerns everyone as it is generated in our everyday lives at homes, schools and workplace. Positive mental health contributes to the social, human and economic capital of societies. To promote mental health, we all should move together.
Dr Ahmed Helal Soton
A doctor of Department of Psychiatry at BSMMU.
Source: The Daily Star, February 27, 2010