Majority of the people have no answer to why they are feeling the way they are and, as a result, not seeking help

Mr B is a 70-year-old retired resident of Dhaka who managed to maintain a healthy lifestyle before Covid-19 shook the world. He was engaged in regular exercise, routine health checkups, and frequent socialization. The Covid-19 crisis changed everything and he had to stop sports and limit socializing. Gradually, his balanced well being was disrupted and he began to feel worried and scared all the time, which affected his sleep and appetite.

During these tough times, many stuck at home like Mr B are experiencing anxiety, restlessness, lack of sleep, short temper, and agitation creeping up silently and unknowingly. Unfortunately, the voice inside the head keeps defending every single symptom experienced and is conditioned to believe imbalance of the mind is a myth. The stigma of being aware of one’s mental health and then trying to have the confidence to ask for help is a global problem. In Bangladesh, it has often been limited to social media and ridicule like, “It’s a First World thing”. However, in recent years, social media campaigns and availability of appropriate services are starting to address this issue in Bangladesh and SAJIDA Foundation (SF) is certainly a pioneer in this.

Although some are reading up on global studies on the rise of anxiety and mental instability during these unique times, most do not have access to the same information. Majority of the people have no answer to why they are feeling the way they are and, as a result, not seeking help. The barrier is multifaceted, starting with stigma, poor awareness, limited education, and lack of availability of appropriate services. To help fight this battle and being passionate about providing Mental Health services to all, SAJIDA Foundation helped set up Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic (PHWC), as well as a broader Sajida Mental Health Program (SMHP). Together the organizations are providing services to individuals across all walks of life.

Seeing Mr B’s deterioration, his family contacted PHWC. He had a review with a psychiatrist and started regular counselling and, within a few weeks, regained some of his previous balance, which made him feel much better and happier.

Mrs A, a 35-year-old housewife, and her husband have a small-scale business in Narayanganj. During the lockdown she faced some inexplicable physical weakness, which was later diagnosed as mild depression.

The Sajida Mental Health Program (SMHP) came to her rescue by providing subsidized, low-cost counselling and within a span of 4 sessions she started showing improvement by accepting the treatment and options offered.

To help more people like Mr B and Mrs A, SAJIDA Foundation & PHWC continue to innovate and expand into different areas of Mental Health care. While services are focused on community-based solutions of treatment and awareness, the plan is to move to residential treatment facilities providing specialized services such as Perinatal Mental Health, Mental Health Care of the Elderly, and Child and Adolescent Services.

PHWC has scaled up services and moved to virtual platforms. An increasing number of organizations are being provided with comprehensive wellness programs. Support is being sought from the corporate sector, development sector, and from educational institutions. This service is being provided by workshops and seminars, remote counselling and EAP (employee assistance program) – which is a hotline for 24/7 dedicated counselling provided to organizations on a subscription basis. A community-based model of providing psychosocial support for Covid-19 affected communities in Dhaka has been developed. Psychosocial care is being provided to frontline staff as well as Covid-19 positive patients and their families.