The invisible pandemic: Mental health of youth in Bangladesh during Covid-19

(Credit: Unsplash

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Fariha Hoque Rimu, a meticulous and analytical Researcher who is a research associate. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


In a small developing country like Bangladesh which is filled with prejudice and social stigma and blind to It’s mental health issues, it’s no wonder that only a miserable 0.5% of Bangladesh’s entire health expenditure is allocated for mental health despite having 17% of its adults suffering from various psychological issues.Therefore with covid-19, the stark deterioration in the mental health of it’s youth is appropriately noticed with 70% more suicide fatalities than pandemic deaths in the first year of the coronavirus outbreak, as stated by “Prothom Alo” earlier this year.Covid-19 claimed the lives of 8,462 in the 365 days after the outbreak, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) meanwhile 14,436 people committed suicide based on data collected by Aanchal foundation (among whom majority were youths). Even the prevalence of depression and anxiety rose multiple times higher in 2020, 2021 than in 2018.

Like the rest of the world, Bangladeshi youths have been facing turmoil in numerous ways during covid-19. Schools and universities have been shut down for over a year indefinitely without any online options in most of the cases.Government declaring to open them every now and then, only to revise their decision multiple times has only put students through more uncertainty about their future in  already difficult times. Disruption of life,unemployment,perceived risk,feeling of disconnection,fear of death,of not getting treatment,of wasting peak years of their lives to the pandemic- all of this might be contributing to the state of their hopelessness, anxiety and depression.This also resonates with R.Silver, PhD, Professor of Psychological Science, University of California, who explained-“In our research, we see that young people have been hit harder than adults-which was not something we initially expected”.

Even though people are biologically programmed to seek for engagement, connection, and human contact wherever they go, quarantine along with inaccessibility to the internet in many parts of Bangladesh precludes young people from connecting over social media which might be a key determinant in feelings of loneliness.Even in apparently healthy persons, the social isolation associated with quarantine is an entrance to varied psychological complications.

The question inevitably arises as to how we may battle these issues and the first order of business should be to recognise the mental health pandemic that’s taking shape into being.

It is critical to continue to advocate for those who are vulnerable, particularly the younger population, throughout this global pandemic. Bangladesh needs to address it’s numerous obstacles, including lack of psychiatric facilities, shortage of competent workers, insufficiency of financial resources and social stigma. A strong leadership to bring about comprehensive mental health policy to bolster it’s healthcare system is also a prerequisite. On the other hand, helping people establish a new routine with consistent new patterns, enjoyable activities, and exercise might be an efficient way to cope with the new reality of their lives.Accepting the fact this is how we have to live and building back from that essence.

References

  1. Anwar Islam, Tuhin Biswas.Mental health and the health system in Bangladesh: situation analysis of a neglected domain.

Am J Psychiatry Neurosci 3 (4), 57-62, 2015

  • Zaha Chowdhury, The silent pandemic: Social isolation and loneliness.[Internet] 2021

Available from: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thedailystar.net/opinion/news/the-silent-pandemic-social-isolation-and-loneliness-2081389%3famp

  • Moudud Ahmmed Sujan, Pandemic Fallout: Depression, anxiety rise nationwide.[Internet]2021

Available from: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/news/pandemic-fallout-depression-anxiety-increases-nationwide-2079701%3famp

  • R.Silver, PhD, Professor of Psychological Science, University of California

Available from: https://sciline.org/covid-19/psychological-effects/

About the author

Fariha Hoque Rimu, a meticulous and analytical Researcher who is a research associate at Safe Teen ; (a non profit organisation)  is raising awareness about mental health of youth and working to destigmatize the taboo around mental health in her country.       

Currently she is working as a medical  officer in Integrated Development Foundation (NGO) where she responds to a patient’s medical problems as well as leads a team of 40 paramedics.

She is motivated to further her knowledge and experience in the field of research.     

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