Oct 27 2020
For many years, the concept of mental health has been stigmatized by a bias – that mental health refers to mental illnesses – and hence addressing it has been considered particularly ruinous to one’s reputation.
But as society has learned to be more tolerant and open to introspection, the role that mental health plays in a person’s development and the lives of those around them are becoming more and more frequently discussed.
The Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center hosted a webinar on October 10 on the occasion of World Mental Health Day. The discussion, titled “Know Thyself: Self-awareness and mental well-being,” was attended by Monira Rahman, country lead of Mental Health First Aid Bangladesh; Dr Ashique Selim, lead psychiatrist and managing director of the Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic; and Rubina Jahan, clinical psychologist and senior manager of the Mental Health Program at SAJIDA Foundation. Adnin Mourin, manager of operations at BYLC, moderated the event.
“As you know very well, BYLC has been working for the past 11 hours to develop skills among young people and help them with self-improvement,” said Adnin to welcome the audience to the webinar.
As the narrative around mental health remains relatively unknown to the general population, the moderator initiated the discussion by asking the participants to explain what mental well-being is and how it differs from mental weakness or disorders.
In response, Dr Rubina said: “Mental health is what helps a person realize their full potential and effectively overcome the stress from the daily challenges, take care of themselves, be productive, and is able to contribute to the community around them. When all these aspects are present in a wholesome state, it is of sound mental health. But when there is something amiss, and one or more of the aspects are not functioning as intended, that is what is referred to as mental weakness or disorder.”
The discussion floated over to stereotypes based on the concept of the “tough male,” in which males predominantly display a tendency to refuse acknowledging their emotions, subsequently repress their feelings.
Dr Ashique, to extrapolate why it happens, said the ignorance about emotional intelligence prevents people from perceiving them accurately.
“There is the misconception that if you are showing any kind of emotions, you are showing weakness, according to society. It is seen as not masculine, but feminine. Boys are conditioned from childhood to not cry like girls. But certain emotions are encouraged, like anger or arrogance. But emotions connected to our vulnerabilities are suppressed. This is very troubling. But there is progress with training and discussions, and things are changing,” he said.
Dr Monira was asked how emotional training programs from the Mental First Aid Bangladesh could help people, particularly young people.
“At Mental First Aid, the concept of mental health contrasts with how we view physical health. We know what sort of first aid to apply to cuts and burns on our body, but not how to treat our hearts. We often see people around us hurting from mental pain and it hurts us to see them in pain as well. What Mental First Aid does is teach how to provide first aid for mental health, just as you would give first aid to a physical injury. We help develop an understanding of when a person needs professional help, and who to go for what kind of help.
“Another issue that inevitably arises when discussing mental health is stigma. Our organizations have thousands of volunteers who are working to overcome this stigma and help provide immediate care in a non-judgmental, listening, communicative manner.”
Dr Rubina cautioned about indulgence and lack of self-awareness and what people can do to better engage themselves.
In addition, Dr Monira stressed the importance of identifying triggers than enrage ourselves and what we should do to calm ourselves.
“Anger towards yourself can lead to self-harm and other adverse consequences. Fits of anger should not be indulged, and it is very important for a person to be aware of their darker aspects,” she said.
“There are many people who are always struggling internally even when they are under immense pressure in the physical world. If they cannot respond to you, do not lose heart, just let them know that you are there for them. This is not a sign of helplessness, this is strength.”
The Innovation for Wellbeing Foundation can be reached at 01726427219
The Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic can be reached at 01777772764