The strategy pledges to raise public awareness and education of mental health difficulties, tackle stigma, and provide communities with culturally appropriate needs-based mental health interventions.
Although mental health issues pose considerable public health risks, claiming more lives than Covid-19, Bangladesh still lacks resources essential to undertake the necessary interventions. The consequence is, people cannot enjoy their right to the highest standard of physical and mental health.
As Bangladesh continues to weather the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, BRAC feels the issue of mental health in the country needs to be tackled with a comprehensive approach, and in strong partnership with the government.
In the presence of speakers from the government and non-government agencies, BRAC launched its first Mental Health Strategy at a virtual event organised today, Wednesday (25 August 2021). The event was chaired by Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, and moderated by KAM Morshed, senior director, BRAC.
Professor Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general (planning), Directorate General of Health Services, attended the programme as the chief guest. Dr Robed Amin, line director, Non-Communicable Disease Control (NCDC), Government of Bangladesh, and Mia Seppo, UN resident coordinator, Bangladesh, were present special guests at the event.
The strategy sets out the organisation's commitment towards improving mental health of the population and developing mental health services and activities that are effective and ethical.
To achieve this, the strategy outlines four strategic aims and associated goals to meet by 2030. BRAC is committed to working alongside the Government of Bangladesh and other stakeholders, to address the current and future mental health needs of the country.
Grounded in an approach that espouses, endorses and advocates for culturally congruent, respectful and compassionate ethos, BRAC’s Mental Health Strategy pledges to raise public awareness and education of mental health difficulties, tackle stigma, and provide communities with culturally appropriate needs-based mental health interventions.
Dr Nargis Islam, consulting clinical psychologist, Oxford (UK), and consultant for BRAC Institute of Educational Development (BRAC IED), presented the details of BRAC Mental Health Strategy at the event. The blueprint of this strategy comes from the proven paracounsellor model that has been developed and executed successfully by BRAC IED in the past. While sharing her experiences in executing the paracounselling model, Dr Erum Mariam, executive director, BRAC IED, BRAC Bangladesh, said, “We did not call it mental health but over the past 49 years we connected with communities, supported and gave people hope and ensured their dignity. It is a moment of celebration that we have been able to build on our work and articulate the first Mental Health Strategy for BRAC!”
Dr Morseda Chowdhury, director, Health, Nutrition and Population Programme at BRAC, explained the design of a pilot to test BRAC’s mental health model at a large scale. She said, “Action at local and national levels to implement this strategy will only be effective if there is sustained and reciprocal partnership working across all sectors, and as such, will be the focus for achieving successful implementation of the strategy.”
Professor Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional DG, DGHS, said “Improving mental health services is one of the key health related agendas for the government right now. The government and non-government actors can work together in a multi-sectoral approach to improve the mental health situation in the country. We need to fight together to reach a common goal which will give us a mentally healthy nation, a mentally healthy Bangladesh.”
Mia Seppo, UN resident coordinator, Bangladesh, said “17% of adults in Bangladesh live with mental health issues. We must cater to the rising need for mental health support by mainstreaming appropriate services within the existing health system. Mental health is just as important as physical health.”
Asif Saleh, executive director, BRAC, said “BRAC’s founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed believed that mental health and wellbeing were a crucial and underserved component of public health. Now, particularly against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the toll it has taken on our mental wellbeing, it is time to work together to improve the access to mental health services in Bangladesh. BRAC has developed a comprehensive strategy to reach the last mile with mental health services. And, now we need other partners - the Government of Bangladesh, non-government organisations, private actors, and development partners - to move the work forward collaboratively.”
Experts in the mental health services in Bangladesh, high officials from other government and non-government agencies and representatives from various global organisations also joined the virtual event.