Making mental health a global priority | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 11, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 11, 2008

World Mental Health Day 2008

Making mental health a global priority

The World Federation for Mental Health has created the 2008 World Mental Health Day theme, “Making Mental Health a Global Priority: Scaling up Services through Citizen Advocacy and Action.” World Mental Health Day was observed for the first time on 10 October 1992. The day is officially commemorated every year on October 10th.
According to the World Health Organisation, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. According this definition mental health is one of the core components of health. According to National Mental Health Survey in 2003-2005 about 16.05% of the adult populations in Bangladesh are suffering from some sorts of mental illness and they need treatment. But the manpower and resources of mental health sector are very much limited.
A small portion of patients are reporting to government facilities and they receive some psychotropic medicine from those facilities. No mental disorder is covered in any insurance schemes. No human rights review body exists in the country to inspect mental health facilities.
The amount of money spent for mental health services by the government in 2005 was 0.44% of total health care expenditure. There are 31 community-based psychiatric in-patient units — that means 0.58 bed per 100,000 population and on average patients spend 29 days in the facilities per discharge. The density of psychiatric beds in or around Dhaka, the largest city, is 5 times greater than the density of beds in the entire country. The total number of psychiatrist working in mental health facilities or private practice per 100,000 populations is 0.073; that means one psychiatrist is working against per 1500,000 populations.
In this condition each of us has the power to change, the ability to help, and the dedication to see a different world for mental health care, treatment, and promotion.
The main components of the theme of World Mental health Day 2008 is focus on the need for increased resources for mental disorders, treating and preventing mental disorders in low and middle-income countries, reviewing and possibly changing some of the mental health systems in various countries, and overcoming barriers to improve mental health services. In Bangladesh most of the people are not conscious or aware regarding the mental health, even in the urban area. In so called educated affluent society, the stigma exists regarding mental illness. Some people are taking nonscientific and so-called spiritual treatment for mental illness avoiding conventional scientific treatment.
To make the mental health a global as well as national priority, we need national ownership for mental health issue. We should develop local resources and family advocacy groups must be encouraged. Stigma must be addressed across the society. From the government and policy maker side, mental health needs dedicated and sustainable funding with more attention in national health budget. People need better access and information on treatment options for mental illness. Professional training and development of skilled manpower in mental health sector should be the one of the top priority to scale up the mental health services. We all should raise our own voice for mental health.

The writer is an Assistant Registrar of National Institute of Mental Health, Dhaka. E-mail:

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