You are not alone!

Shaikha Shuhada Panzeree focussed on a platform that is acting as an online support system to the depressed

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Over the last two years, at least 10 SSC and HSC examinees have committed suicide after getting poor results. It’s nothing new that young Bangladeshi students feel immense mental pressure and angst ahead of their public examination results. Family expectations, the requirements of good educational institutions, social backlash towards the teenagers failing to get the common standard of merit- GPA 5 and other factors lead to such tensions in the young hearts, that they are affected by depression and other psychological issues, often resulting in suicides.

A bunch of empathetic students from BUET, who very well realised how these pressures and depression cause inner turmoil in these young people, have come up with an online support system called ‘ItsOkay Bangladesh’, a platform for providing mental support to distressed students. The co-founders of the platform, Suparna Chowdhury, Muhammad Abdul Majid, Abdullah Hasan Safir and Wakila Hussain Moumi, are all students from BUET.

Abdullah Hasan Safir, co-founder and creative director of the programme, informs New Age Xtra that the idea of this project was developed in Digital Khichuri Challenge, a competition, co-sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Facebook, with support from Google and organised by Affinis Labs. This resulted in the creation of a platform to help the country’s youngsters to showcase their creativity and innovation through creative storytelling with ability to bring the rich traditions of peaceful coexistence under the spotlight. UNDP and ICT department funded them with USD 5,000 and kept the gradual development under their supervision. In the competition, during a 30 hour long brainstorming session, with a board of mentors who were high profile mentors from UNDP, Facebook, Google and YouTube, the team realised empathy is the key to addressing the young depressed generation who cannot generally express their troubles to anyone.

Story-of-Aninda-2 -by-ItsOkayBd

A website, www.itsokaybd.com, has already been launched for this purpose and in this website there are features like, ‘Connect’-where one can simply register or log in with their social network profiles and be part of a community where they would no longer feel alone, ‘Share’- where one can only post when they are registered and logged in to the website, ‘Heal’- where one who has gone through similar traumas in life, can put in words the story of revival from their struggles, ‘Write to Moumi’- where one can directly talk to Moumi, an internationally experienced counselling expert. Anyone can write to her; if they need any kind of help, she will promptly respond.

Other options include, ‘Featured Stories’- where interviews of survivors are taken and published as stories that the stressed youth can relate to and learn how similar problems that they face were successfully tackled by others, ‘Blog’- there are mental health related blogs and articles in Bengali to inform people about these issues and finally an ‘Expert Corner’- ItsOkay has reached psychologists and is in the process of enriching this part in order to provide further support.

Actively launching their support system for a month now, almost 200 people have contacted them over phone calls, mails, ‘Write to Moumi’ option and Facebook inbox. Their responses are fast and it is already reaching out to the ones in need of the support, more and more people are logging into the site for the service.

This year the pass rate of HSC examination came down to a 10-time record low while the number of GPA 5 holders came to a seven-time low. On July 23, the day of HSC result publication, ItsOkay launched a special programme runnning from July 23 to 25. Through the programme, the platform provided phone numbers of volunteers who were available for chats with vulnerable students, to help out the ones who felt they need support with their problems and giving consolations along with guidelines. They have received hundreds of phone calls during the programme, as the founders share with New Age Xtra. The Facebook post, providing the names and numbers of the volunteers, was shared more than thousand times and the total view exceeded 380,000. The volunteers who came forward were Sayem, Sani, Shuvo, Abu-Sadat, Tanzir, Podmo, Muniya, Sami Islam, Srestho, Rafsan, Nafis, Juthon, Deepto, Redwan, Orgho and Mustafa Rafid.

The team is continuously enriching their website, with a focus to reach more and more people. The team said to New Age Xtra, ‘We want to create a dialogue about mental health issues in Bangladeshi society, which is considered a taboo. We want a sustainable solution, those who need help and those who will provide help, we want to bring them under one single platform.’

Safir says, ‘Our society and young generation has a lot of empathy. They are capable of helping each other. They just need a platform to empower themselves. ItsOkay politely wants to provide that. And we are working toward this.’