Stigma and prejudice were the main challenges especially in South Asian region for tackling mental health (MH), said Saima Wazed Hossain.
Saima, Chairperson of Bangladesh National Advisory Committee for Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders, made this observation while addressing a technical briefing titled “Mental Health: Time to Scale Up” on the sideline of 72nd World Health Assembly at Geneva, Switzerland.“Stigma and prejudice are the two main challenges especially in South Asian region for tackling mental health,” Saima said.
Saima, also a Goodwill Ambassador of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for autism in South-East Asia Region said, “The common challenges faced by the WHO SEARO countries include stigma and prejudice, a limited number of trained professionals, low budget allocation, lack of coordination in the implementation of MH programmes and large treatment gap.”
She briefed the session on the current situation in Bangladesh, a country of 160 million.
“The number of trained professionals is extremely low .We have only 60 clinical psychologists. There are 10,000 general physicians and 12,000 nurses trained in mental health and only 60 general physicians trained in disaster management,” Saima said.
“The good news is the government of Bangladesh has recently passed the new Mental Health Act, included psychological support in crisis preparedness and management and is currently in the process of finalizing the National Mental Health Policy,” said Saima, member of WHO’s 25-member Expert Advisory Panel on mental health.
As a leading member of the team of expert that will be assisting the working group, Saima said her plan is to ensure that the strategic plan is comprehensive and focused on enhancing resilience from childhood and community well-being which are key components of psychological well-being.“In order to address this complex and multifaceted issue, collaboration with effective partners is urgently needed and Bangladesh is poised to do so. Despite our many challenges due to stigma and lack of professionals, we hope to develop innovative methods of outreach into the community. The Bangladesh leadership is committed to making mental health a priority and ensuring the well-being of all our citizens,” she added.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque, Health Services Division Secretary Md Asadul Islam, Director General of Health Services Professor Dr Abul Kalam Azad, Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) President Mostafa Jalal Mohiuddin and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s former adviser Syed Modasser Ali, were present on the occasion, among others.
Zahid Maleque on his part sought collaboration from WHO to minimize gap for proper treatment of mental patients.