More coordinated efforts need to be made to improve the state of our mental health

Hiren Pandit: We cannot achieve sustainable development without sound mental health. Good health and well-being are specifically mentioned in Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 agenda. It is important to decentralize mental health services to suburban, rural, and remote areas. Training on mental health is essential to build a skilled workforce. Training should be given from district hospitals to community clinics. The family, society, state, and government have to take more responsibility.

Covid-19 is a viral disease, but the prevalence of this disease is so immeasurable that it transcends the dangers of physical health, and impacts us mentally, socially, and economically. About 5,911,092 people died over the last two years; the approximate number of deaths in Bangladesh, as of February 23, stood at 28,774. 

No one knows when this crisis will be resolved. During the Covid-19 pandemic, 36% people were fired for various reasons. Although three percent of the people have jobs, they have not received their salaries and allowances properly. Most of them belong to the middle-class.

So, what was the way to overcome the crisis? The government has taken development and people-friendly measures for the overall protection and livelihood of people from different professions. All these measures contributed significantly in keeping the wheel of the economy running.

Every person in Bangladesh, more or less, has been dealing with mental stress amidst the pandemic. Of these, about 34.9% of the youth and young women are under various types of mental stress. As a result of the mental instability they are dealing with, 70.8% of the people resort to harming themselves physically. There are also emerging suicidal tendencies in numerous people as a result of the mental stresses. A survey of service providers working with young people’s mental health found that the high number of suicides during the Covid-19 period is a cause for concern.

Many researchers are working to find a solution to various mental health problems, to identify the causes of suicide, and to find their solutions. From March 2020 to February 2021, there were a total of 14,438 suicides in the country. According to data from 322 suicide case studies, 49% of those who committed suicide were between the ages of 20 and 35, and 57% of them were women.

Suicide is not a solution to one’s problems. Do people choose this path to survive the storm, or avoid it? Does the beauty of the world not draw them closer? But this is not the way out. The search for life, not death, can lead to salvation.

Depression is one of the most common causes of suicide. In addition, experts believe that people often commit suicide due to various hallucinations, delusions, and intoxication. In addition to mental illness and stress, many people choose this path because of pride, estrangement, poverty, dowry system, rape, and humiliation. In this case, the body is found to be deficient in serotonin, dopamine, and non-adrenaline, according to experts.

According to the data available, most young people suffer from depression. Being upset most of the time, losing interest in the job of choice, abnormally more or less sleep, loss of focus at work, negative thoughts about yourself, indecisiveness in all aspects of life — research has shown that when these problems become severe, the tendency to commit suicide increases. The main reason, however, is not being able to talk openly with anyone about their mental instability.

Multiple studies have shown that one in five people infected with the Coronavirus develops mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Experts say that the rate of stress, anxiety, depression, and panic among people who are not infected and of health workers is much higher than usual. Even if you recover from Covid-19, there is still a risk of mental problems.

Mental problems have also increased in Bangladesh during the Covid-19 period. Mental distress is exacerbated by the fear of infection, the uncertainty of access to medical care, the fear of death, the economic crisis, unemployment, financial instability, and even misconceptions about the virus and coronary heart disease among health workers at all levels engaged in Covid-19 treatment, which is harming their mental health. Domestic and gender-based violence has also seen an increase worldwide during this period.

Good health means both physical and mental health. Physical and mental well-being complement each other. It is not possible to achieve mental well-being without physical well-being. Mental illnesses, on the other hand, affect physical well-being. Although physical illness is visible, mental illness is not visible in the early stages. It only seems obvious when it assumes a deadly shape.

A person suffering from anxiety worries too much about most things, like losing family members, and foments a sense of unhealthy skepticism within themselves. Although it seems normal at the initial stage, the family and social life of the person with anxiety may be severely disrupted later on.

Depression, on the other hand, works differently. An estimated 19 billion people worldwide suffer from depressive disorders. According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, 12.7% of people in Bangladesh suffer from depression. In other words, in this country of 16.7 crore people, the number of patients suffering from depression is more than two crore. 

According to doctors, depression is a mental and physical disease at the same time. Now the question arises: How favourable, or unfavourable, is the familial, social, and national environment of the country for the patients suffering from depression and mental illness?

Like all other ailments of the body, mental illnesses can be just as pronounced or subtle. These issues are neither clear nor acceptable in our society. On the contrary, family members of people suffering from these issues struggle to come to terms with it. A changed psychological state may cause confusion for the person experiencing it, as well as their family and friends.

Suicide is not the solution. Life must go on with courage, without fear, without reliance. I understand that the pain can be too much to bear for a lot of us, but our lives do not exist in a vacuum. 

Suicide is not the way. The soil under the feet needs to be hardened. Children should pay attention to their establishment without being burdened by others. The hand of sympathy should be extended to those who are prone to suicide. We must try to understand them in order to be there for them. Which is why I urge anyone considering ending their lives to seek help, and for those who know people with suicidal tendencies to offer every ounce of support they can muster.

Successful people are in control of almost every single situation. But suffering can cause the desire for liberation and can give way to overwhelming thoughts of non-existence. Even if you want to talk about mental health, you can’t talk to everyone. Most people keep everything to themselves for the sake of keeping face, and to protect their image.

What can the government do in this case? The prime minister has no shortage of sincerity for the people of the country. The reality is hard to swallow, but we have to move for ourselves to enjoy life. The family, society, the state and the government have to take more responsibility to improve the living conditions for the overall mental well-being of our people.

Hiren Pandit is a researcher and columnist.

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