Survey finds massive mental disorder burden, treatment gap in Bangladesh

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2019-11-07 20:09:58 BdST


A new study has indicated a “huge burden” of mental health disorders among the Bangladeshis with a massive treatment gap.

The ‘National Mental Health Survey, Bangladesh 2019’ conducted after 14 years also found stigma related to mental health disorders was also prevalent.

The health directorate of the government, and the National Institute of Mental Health and Hospital teamed up to conduct the survey with technical support from the World Health Organisation.

It found 16.8 percent people aged above 18 suffer from any of the mental health conditions ranging from depression, anxiety to neurodevelopmental disorders and sexual dysfunction.

The rate of mental health conditions is 13.6 percent among children aged between 7 years and 17 years. As much as 5.9 percent children of this age group suffer from neurodevelopmental disorders.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque asked the authorities to devise a work plan based on the study evidence while speaking at the release of the survey on Thursday.

“The mental health policy is also at the final stages,” he said.

The last survey which was conducted in 2005 found the prevalence of mental health disorders at 16.1 percent.

“The current rate is nothing alarming if we compare it with those of the regional countries,” Dr M Mostafa Zaman, the WHO expert who provided the technical support to the study, told

“But we need to address the situation both in preventive and treatment aspects.”

The study, conducted in 64 districts involving 8,928 adults and 2,270 children, found a massive treatment gap. Only 8 percent of adults take treatment while less than 6 percent children adhere to treatment among all those diagnosed with mental disorders.

Among the adults, depressive disorders are the number one problem followed by anxiety disorders. Among children, neurodevelopmental disorders top the list.

“It’s a huge burden,” Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed of National Mental Health Institute said while presenting the survey finds.

He sought an administration wing under a separate director in the Directorate General of Health Services. “We also recommend developing an effective strategic plan according to the disease burden.”

To address the treatment gap, Dr Helal suggested psychiatric units in the districts, and development of psychiatry units in all medical colleges that will have psychologists.

He also recommended updating medical curriculum in graduate studies.

The WHO expert, Dr Zaman, however, said only psychiatrists cannot resolve the problem. “If we do that (use only psychiatrists), we will have to wait for the next 50 years to ensure treatment for all,” he reckoned.

“The attitude of the psychiatrists is that they will do everything. But it's not feasible,” he said, suggesting training of all doctors, nurses and paramedics so that they can provide treatment at the primary and secondary level.

“Only 200 psychiatrists cannot serve the purpose. It will take another 50 year,” he warned.