Mental Health in Bangladesh

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), Bangladesh’s GDP grew by 5.24 percent during 2019-20 raising the per capita income by US$155 to US$2,064. All these data show a path to becoming a developed nation, but the state of mental health is still an alarming stage in Bangladesh. Mental healthcare is grossly neglected here.

The Pabna Mental Hospital is the main public hospital in the country where most patients from all over the country seek treatment. It has only 500 beds and has always been understaffed. Out of the 25 allotted posts for doctors, 13 remain vacant.

The hospital management has repeatedly sent letters to the higher authorities requesting that the posts be filled, but so far nothing has happened. Isolation and loss of income during this pandemic have resulted in more people experiencing various mental health issues. Mental healthcare must be made affordable to all people and be part of primary health care. The pandemic has exposed the neglect with which this crucial area of healthcare has been
treated and should prompt the government to make the investments needed to improve existing facilities and increase the mental health professionals.

According to the World Economic Forum report 2018, globally, one in four people was affected by mental health problems (e.g., anxiety, depression, stress, and mental disorders) at some point in their lives and approximately 450 million individuals suffered from these illnesses due to inequalities in educational attainment, income, accommodation, social support services, violence, humanmade tragedies and natural disasters, including floods, cyclones, and storms.

The advent of coronavirus has deteriorated individuals’ mental health, and the number of people with mental illnesses is rapidly growing. This suggests that they now require mental health services more than before. However, the psychological health services in the country remain underfunded, unprepared, and fragmented.

While similar situations prevail in other high-income countries, the state of the low and middle-income countries (LMIC) is far worse. According to the National Mental Health Survey in Bangladesh from 2018-19, around 17 percent of Bangladeshi adults are undergoing mental health problems like depression, anxiety, stress and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Of them, over 92 percent did not seek mental health services due to stigma, negative perceptions, inadequate knowledge of available mental health services, misconceptions about treatment, and treatment cost.

Although there is limited populationbased data on what percentage of Bangladeshi people are suffering from mental health problems due to the Covid-19 crisis, a review of extant studies of Covid-19 has found high rates of psychological distress among Bangladeshi individuals, ranging from 58 percent to 86 percent. This indicates that the pandemic has taken a serious toll on existing mental health problems in Bangladeshi individuals. Nevertheless, the available data on healthcare budget shows that less than 0.5 percent of the total health budget is usually allocated for mental health programs, which has created a gap in the response to mental health problems.

Bangladesh is a country with low human resources for mental health comprising 0•073 psychiatrists per 100 000 population. Bangladesh spends only 0•44% of its total health-care expenditure on mental health and no social insurance program covers mental health services.