Mental wellbeing is a major public health concern of this era. It contributes about 14 per cent to the total global affliction of diseases, making it a fundamental indicator of health.
Over six million people suffer from depression and almost seven million people have chronic anxiety in Bangladesh. For a country that loses an estimated number of over 10,000 people by suicide every year, Bangladesh spends only 0.44 per cent of its total healthcare expenditure on mental health. There is no social insurance programme that covers mental health services.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 31 per cent of Bangladeshi adults experience mental health issues. Due to the strong social stigma attached to it in society, its prevalence is likely to be underestimated. Excessive stress at work can be overwhelming and may take a toll on our mental health, and our productivity may take a hit. As a measure to reduce workplace-related stress, promote a work atmosphere that considers employees’ mental health, and boost the overall performance of its staff, BRAC takes a few steps to ensure a stress-free work environment for our team:
SUPPORT SYSTEM: BRAC believes in establishing and maintaining a solid support system in the workplace.
We encourage our staff, especially women, to speak unhesitatingly about problems faced in our daily work life through a forum called Mon Khule Kotha Bola (speaking from the heart). Vital concerns are raised and their feasible solutions are reached through this forum, helping foster a cohesive work environment in the organisation.
Two certified professionals from our in-house psychosocial counselling unit at BRAC’s head office provide free mental health services accessible by all employees. The unit maintains a strict protocol of confidentiality and anyone from BRAC can book an appointment with them (at +8802 9881265, Ext 3935).
Additionally, we run a 9am-5pm psychosocial helpline (01704121000, 01704121111) that lends a listening ear to any BRAC staff in need of counselling. The line is also open 24/7 in case of emergency counselling services.
We run a daycare centre called DOLNA at the head office for the children of BRAC employees. Ensuring a safe and healthy environment for children while their parents are off at work is a matter of stress for working parents, and DOLNA was established to cater to them. DOLNA admits children aged 6 months to 6 years. It is a breastfeeding-friendly centre which provides working parents with an opportunity to visit their children anytime during the day and continue with their work without any stress regarding their children’s care.
HEALTH: Maintaining good health creates a huge difference in our energy levels, productivity, and mental wellbeing. We provide various facilities for our staff body in order to help sustain overall good health.
We hold frequent awareness sessions on different health concerns, eg heart disease, osteoporosis, etc, at the head office, where medical professionals are invited to speak on the topic and answer queries.
Hospital treatments can be financially and emotionally overwhelming, and ergo we offer health insurance to every BRAC staff in Bangladesh. Each staff is able to claim up to BDT 100,000 a year for hospital expenses for self, spouse and unmarried dependents up to the age of 25.
SAFEGUARDING: We harbour a zero-tolerance attitude towards any form of harm, abuse, neglect, harassment, bullying and exploitation in the organisation under our safeguarding policy. We have a 9am-5pm helpline (01729071546) to report any safeguarding violation, that is later investigated and taken suitable action against.
We conduct frequent gender sensitisation training for all employees to promote and maintain a gender-sensitive work culture within the organisation.
In January 2018, the National Mental Health Act 2017 was approved by the cabinet. This replaces the 105-year-old Lunacy Act of 1912, ensuring service provision for care and treatment of persons with mental illnesses, upholding human rights and maintaining respect and dignity for all. The first step in improving the mental health of the population is creating mental health-friendly learning and workplaces. In that regard, BRAC is moving towards the right direction, and we hope all organisations in Bangladesh follow similar footsteps for an all-inclusive work culture.
Miftahul Jannat Chowdhury is the deputy manager of Content and Campaign at BRAC Communications.