The British Council Bangladesh hosted the Commonwealth Scholars Engagement session on mental health on 2 October 2023 at the British Council Auditorium, Fuller Road, Dhaka. The session was organised by the Bangladesh Association of Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows (BACSAF) and supported by British Council.
In continuation of the session, the second session will be held on 16 November 2023 at Bangladesh Agriculture University, Mymensingh.
Global Mental Health Statistics says 970 million people around the world struggle with some mental illness or drug abuse, 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their lives, and 14.3% of deaths worldwide, or approximately 8 million deaths each year, are attributable to mental disorders.
A study says that the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the mental health of the Bangladeshi population. The prevalence of depressive (57.9%), stress (59.7%) and anxiety (33.7%) symptoms in the adult population is now much higher than pre-pandemic rates. Mental healthcare in Bangladesh is enormously inadequate owing to a lack of public mental health facilities, scarcity of skilled mental health professionals, insufficient financial resource distribution and societal stigma, says a report.
In his welcome speech, David Knox, Director Programmes Bangladesh, British Council, said, ‘We are delighted to host Commonwealth Scholars alumni in a mental health and well-being session. The Committee seeks to demonstrate its relevance and the breadth of members’ expertise and allows it to leverage the knowledge and experience of expert leaders from almost every field in Bangladesh. It is increasingly recognised that post-pandemic, there is a global mental health emergency; today’s session will offer participants practical tips to overcome stigma and to provide ways of addressing stress, anxiety and depression.’
Monira Rahman, a Commonwealth Fellow and a mental health expert, said, ‘October is the month for raising awareness of mental health. We must realise that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can’t be achieved without ensuring mental health. Today, we claim our mental health rights, rights to access affordable, accessible, quality mental health services in the community. Mental health literacy is the first step to achieving these goals. Today, we are spreading light on this important area- the mental health for all.’
Commonwealth Scholarships enable talented and motivated people to attain knowledge and skills essential for sustainable development and are offered to citizens from low- and middle-income Commonwealth countries. Most scholarships are funded by the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Since the first Commonwealth Scholarships were awarded in 1960, over 1,800 Bangladeshi students have received scholarships and fellowships.
Professor Dr. Rafiqul Islam, Former Dean, Faculty of Engineering & Technology, Dhaka University and President BACSAF, commented, “It is a pleasure for the BACSAF executive committee to organise today’s session on mental health in association with the British Council with support from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission. This prestigious association, BACSAF, has been formed by us to promote professional networking and collaboration among Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows so that we together can contribute towards the country’s sustainable development.”
Policymakers from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, and BCSAF members, representatives from private and government educational institutions, healthcare institutions were also present during the session.