They say there is no method in madness. But, mental health illness in Bangladesh is showing a steady upward trend, as the ever-growing number of mental patients is creating numerous social and familial problems, said experts of National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Prof. Golam Robbani, the director of NIMH, told The Independent, “Intense insecurity, resulting from financial crisis, family feuds, heartaches, moral laxity, and social instability, among others, have pushed people to the brink of mental sanity.”
He said the young generation is more prone to depression and subsequent mental illnesses, mostly due to failed relationships. Regular quarrel between parents can also severely affect children, added the mental health expert.
Tectonic changes in family and social life, breakdown of social and religious norms and extreme self-reliance, as well as, a drop in family responsibilities, and subterranean mental disorders, often lead to extra-marital affairs, he said.
He also said that, though not seemingly apparent, such cases are often heard inside the chambers of psychiatrists. In fact, “Only conscious and educated couples consult us, to save their marriages. For the rest, the issues still remain to be addressed,” he noted.
On the other hand, the poor and the illiterate visit religious leaders, or quacks, to find a solution for their problems, he added.
He said that in case of extra-marital affairs, if a man, or a woman, chooses to ignore the obvious consequences, it inevitably casts an unshakable shadow on the family. Children feel insecure, and hapless, in such situations, Robbani added.
Dr Zillur Kamal, associate professor of NIMH, told The Independent that at least 80 mentally ill people visit the hospital every day. Of them, about 40 per cent suffer the consequences of extra-marital affairs, while others are victims of failed relationships.
The hospital caters to the needs of both adult and children. It has 62 psychiatrists, including professors and other medical officers.
“Two of my patients divorced their partners over extra-marital affairs, last week. This has become a common feature. We ought to start awareness programmes in this regard. We should show respect and provide affection to distraught patients,” said Prof. Jhunu Shamsun Nahar, of the psychiatry department, at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).
“Counselling is an essential tool to improve the confidence and self-dependency of such patients. It lifts them from the abyss of frustration and loneliness,” she added.
She said that serious patients are given medicine for relaxation. “Couples should consider the family as the most important unit. They should also remain committed to each other,” said Mehtab Khanam, professor of psychology in Dhaka University.
According to the 2007 report on Bangladesh’s mental health system, by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the health ministry, the total number of personnel, working in mental health facilities, or employed in private practice, per 100,000 people, is 0.49.
The only mental hospital of the country has 0.4 beds, per 100,000 people, and this facility is organisationally integrated with mental health outpatient facilities.
The number of beds has increased, by 25 per cent, in the last five years. Patients admitted to the hospital mainly belong to two groups, schizophrenics, constituting 70 per cent of total patients, and people suffering from mood disorders.