Plight of the mentally challenged | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 23, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:54 PM, March 22, 2013


Plight of the mentally challenged

Social welfare ministry needs to step in

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Abu Bakor Siddique of Baufal in Patuakhali is a one instance of how the lives of many young persons full of possibilities finally end up in utter despair. Poverty, ignorance and superstition deny them a normal and healthy life.

The treatment Bakor has been put through by his family members and well-wishers is simply barbaric. The irony is he had to suffer all this for his safety, his father told the reporter of this story.

As a result, at 42, Bakor has by now spent two-thirds of his life in chains in his own home because he showed signs of mental derangement when he was only 14 and a student of class eight. Unable to arrange better treatment from a psychiatrist in the city for his son, Sekandar Ali Howlader found it safer to keep his son confined in his home in chains. This underlines the need for a social help-line.

In a remote rural environment, where ignorance and superstition are common, a mentally challenged person is treated in the most cruel and inhuman manner as he/she is sometimes thought to be possessed by an evil spirit. To drive away the evil spirit, exorcists are called in. Poor Bakor has been subjected to the torture inflicted by faith healers and exorcists in addition to his shackled confinement at home. But far from improving, his condition has only become worse over the years.

It is a stroke of sheer luck that hapless Bakor's story has now become public knowledge, thanks to the report about him. But scores of others like him are suffering unbeknown to us and facing unkind treatment at the hands of their own people, unwittingly, though.

If proper treatment and care could be arranged for mental patients like Bakor at an early stage of their illness, they would be able to lead a normal life like others.

The government and the community at large need to be more sympathetic and caring about their mentally challenged members so that they are not deprived of the right to proper treatment and a normal life.

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