Bangladesh has recently passed the National Mental Healthcare Act 2018, and is about to finalise the breakthrough National Mental Health Strategy. However, resources and investment remain low, with 0.49 mental health caregivers per 100,000 population. In this backdrop, how can mental health be destigmatised and be brought to the doorsteps of everyone?
As Bangladesh weathers the most challenging time of this generation - the COVID-19 pandemic - mental health and wellbeing has become more important than ever. BRAC is committed to enhancing community wellbeing through tackling stigma and increasing access to mental health services through culturally appropriate and compassionate approaches.
The Rohingya population had to flee some of the worst forms of persecution when they left Myanmar in 2017. Since then, living in the world’s largest makeshift settlement situated at the edge of Bangladesh in Cox’s Bazar has meant facing new forms of challenges - floods, cyclones, landslides and fires - often adding to their losses and layers of trauma.
Shantir apa (sisters of peace) are leading a quiet revolution within the Rohingya camps. To help families strengthen their capacities to cope, they are ensuring an empathetic space to decompress and manage mental distress.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant that a lot of work had to be done at the community level. Fahima Akter*, working as a credit officer at BRAC Microfinance, took on the challenge head on. She travelled across Bangladesh, helping families through their financial crises, and providing life-saving information. The inevitable exhaustion that the world had been experiencing throughout most of 2020 was catching up to Fahima.
We live in a world where mental health conditions are severely misunderstood. 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem every year, yet a culture of silence and stigma run deep, making it difficult for people to seek support.
BRAC recently partnered with Clowns Without Borders UK, a charity that aims to share laughter with children in crisis. A team from the charity visited Cox's Bazar to spread a little cheer among the Rohingya children. The playful performances recognised that despite the trauma or difficulties they may have witnessed, children have the right to play, have fun and heal.
Deep inside the chaotic makeshift settlements of Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, is a spacious, shaded, colourful place. A bamboo structure with handmade decorations hanging from the walls. Curious onlookers gather outside the thatched windows, attracted by the rhythm.
Whether it is the globally mourned celebrity deaths like that of Robin Williams’, or the shocking Rana Plaza tragedy occurring close to heart, recent news at both home and abroad have sparked global conversations on the importance of prioritising mental health at multiple forefronts. BRAC, a global leader in tackling poverty through social development, has been quick to jump in on the bandwagon.
Nazia Moqueet is a Research Associate at BRAC Development Institute and is currently based out of BRAC USA. In March 2013, she was in Yemen to conduct a process evaluation of the CGAP-Ford Foundation Graduation Pilot. She conducted several participant and staff interviews and focus group discussions over a period of two weeks. In this post, originally published at the CGAP-Ford Graduation Pilot program blog, She recalls an encounter with a pilot participant in Taiz.