New research network aims to help strengthen mental health services in Bangladesh
Dr Stephanie Armstrong, School of Health and Social Care is currently working with a new UK-Bangladesh research network that aims to help strengthen mental health services in Bangladesh.
Led by Imperial College London – one of the world’s top universities – the Mon Prothom/Mind First research partnership is carrying out several research studies to help strengthen services and integrate mental health into Bangladesh’s Universal Health Coverage.
Bangladeshi collaborators include iccdr,b, Innovation for Wellbeing Foundation, JPGSPH, BRAC University and UK partners include Chatham House, East London Foundation NHS Trust and Lincoln University.
A high level roundtable event on Thursday, co-organised by Imperial College London and Chatham House brought together the research collaborators with ministers from Bangladesh’s government and senior officials and leaders from Bangladesh, UK and global institutions, health professions and UK funding organisations to discuss ways forward for mental health and Universal Health Care in Bangladesh.
Ms Saima Wazed Hossain, Chairperson, Bangladesh National Advisory Committee on Neuro-development Disorders and Autism, and Mental Health Policy Lead, gave the key-note speech outlining the landscape for mental health and universal health coverage in Bangladesh and her vision for the future of mental health care.
The event took place ahead of World Mental Health Day on October 10th.
Bangladesh has already made impressive gains in improving many of its health indicators such as life expectancy, total fertility rates and child and maternal mortality, and is well placed to build on this history to develop and to deliver effective mental health services.
There is now a growing recognition of the crucial importance of mental health in improving healthy life expectancy. There are challenges, such as a significant shortage in trained healthcare workers.
Equally, there are opportunities to help develop and strengthen services and capacity especially at the primary care and community level, and to design a care pathway which offers equity of access to affordable, universal mental health care.
The project is funded by Imperial’s award from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund. At the event Dr Armstrong presented the preliminary research findings of an evaluation of the impact of Mental Health First Aid in Bangladesh.
Project lead, Professor Mala Rao, OBE, Senior Clinical Fellow, from Imperial College London, said: “Ahead of Word Mental Health day, we are absolutely delighted to have established the Mon Prothom, Mind First partnership with key institutions in Bangladesh and the UK.
“This partnership is an exciting opportunity to help develop ways for Bangladesh to achieve ‘mental health for all’ through embedding mental health as part of universal health coverage.
“This is even more poignant this year with the global impact of Covid-19 on all our lives and we look forward to contributing to improving mental health care and developing our partnership and friendship over the coming years.”
Monira Rahman, Executive Director, Innovation for Wellbeing Foundation, said: “Having experienced living with depression, I am one of the 94.5% who do not have access to mental health services in Bangladesh.
“However, as a Mental Health Advocate, I feel optimistic about achieving mental health for everyone everywhere despite all the barriers.
“The Mental Health First Aid Program in Bangladesh has shown a great way forward in transforming social attitudes towards mental illness and there is potential for this program to be scaled up at national level.
“I hope by bringing policymakers, scientists and funders together we will help resolve many issues as mental health is everyone’s responsibility.”