Breaking the shackles

Muhammad Ibrahim Ibne Towhid writes about an ambitious platform in Dhaka that aims to break the taboo of mental healthcare in Bangladesh

Usually, if a person is ill, he/she is asked to visit a doctor. On the other hand, if a person feels depressed, the person is asked to go home and take some rest. But, the mental state needs equal attention as the physical state. This is why counselling is deemed as important in the modern world.

In today’s world, the concern for ensuring overall wellbeing and integrating mental health care along with physical health care is indeed on the rise. With the objective of reforming this connection between physical and mental health in Bangladesh, the organisation Life Spring began its journey this year. The major focus of the organisation is to break the social taboo that is involved with visiting a psychiatrist and making this a social matter rather than something that is traditionally kept as a secret by family members or friends of the patient.

Operating with the tag ‘Healing Hearts and Transforming Lives’, Dr Sayedul Ashraf Kushal and Yahia Md Amin founded Life Spring in January 2017 and hosted its first event ‘Break the shackles’ on February 03, 2017, where celebrated figures from the sphere of psychology and psychiatry enlightened the audience with incidents from their lives thus highlighting the importance of a healthy mental state.

Life SpringAccording to research 31 per cent people of the country have mental illnesses that can stem from anxiety, deviant behavior, stress, addiction and autism apart from an uncommon mentality.  Surprisingly there are only 200 to 210 psychiatrists for this densely populated country.

The initiative has two key parts: primarily it wants to create awareness about the importance of mental health and the other is counselling. Life Spring is different as it wants to make a connection between awareness advocacy and dedicated psychological counseling.

Dr Kushal shares with New Age Xtra, ‘We feel the urge of providing proper knowledge of the subject matter to the people. We want to be the initial ventilation so that people can maintain proper mental health. Although we can identify a problem while talking to a person within the initial moments, the solution requires time and number of sit-ins.’

Dr Kushal informs that they are currently visiting educational institutes to raise awareness among the students because research findings suggest over 77 per cent school-goers of affluent families being porn addicts. ‘We are also working with different companies, corporate houses and banks for stress management of their employees,’ he says. ‘Patients can also have deviant behaviour and we want to ensure proper mental health for all,’ he adds.

Mental health covers a number of issues. During recent years, a sharp rise has been reported in the number of rape incidents in the subcontinent significantly in India. Yahia Md Amin says, ‘We have a big team of doctors and psychiatrists to provide comprehensive service starting with counselling. There are increases in divorce rates, splitting up of families, children becoming porn addicts, drug addicts and depression among individuals.’

Amin adds, ‘We want to work slowly but steadily to overcome the social taboo and solve the different problems of the minds. We have been working in taking proper license from the government and in the coming days we will be initiating our upcoming goals.’

The three step plan of Life Spring is at first to develop a dedicated mental research with International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) over the next six months because the social and cultural orientation of the people of the country is different and lot of work is required in this field.

Secondly, over the next one year, the organisation wishes to initiate a virtual counseling service through which via the internet people from across the country can seek help. There has already been a verbal agreement with the ministry of ICT and processes are ongoing with telecom companies to operate a hotline. Life Spring is already giving free five minutes assistance over phone along with initial counselling through SMS and email.

The third plan is going to be the establishment of a state-of-the-art mental medical care hospital through a private initiative. The two members of Life Spring point out that the only two existing establishments in Pabna and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Sher-e-bangla Nagar is not enough to provide a holistic service.

Anyone can share their problems or take counselling from Life Spring by calling +8801924764580 or visiting www.lifespringweb.com. The counselling centre at Dhanmondi operates from 9:00am till 9:00pm and one can visit after making an appointment.

Life Spring

Concord Royal Court (4th Floor), House- 275/G, Road- 16, Dhanmondi, Dhaka- 1205.