The labor law of our country does not include mental health issues and a multilateral approach is needed to address this problem, opined specialists
More than 17% of adults in the country suffer from some form of mental health issue, but around 92% of these troubled individuals never seek any counselling or treatment.
The working class are especially vulnerable to mental health issues, so proper focus on such matters and healthy cooperation in the workplace are essential in ensuring employees' sound mental health, said speakers at a seminar on Saturday.
The seminar marking World Mental Health Day 2020 was jointly organised by Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies (BILS) and Sajida Foundation in collaboration with the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation at the National Press Club.
At the event, Nazrul Islam Khan, secretary general and executive director of BILS, said, "Abuse at the hands of co-workers and supervisors at the workplace, sexual harassment, bad habits, etc. affect people's mental health."
He further said that the labor law of our country does not include mental health issues and a multilateral approach is needed to address this problem.
This is an issue of serious concern, because around 28-30 people commit suicide every day due to mental health issues, said speakers at the event.
Keynote speaker at the seminar, Rubina Jahan, senior manager and clinical psychologist of Sajida Foundation, said that mental issues like depression usually arise due to physical disability and unemployment.
"However, mental health is a 'common and growing' issue at the workplace," said Rubina adding that the number of psychiatrists in Bangladesh is negligible – less than 250.
She said, "If we want to solve the problem at this initial stage, we have to increase manpower in the mental health sector."
"We can create para-councils on the ground. We can provide training to build capacity on at least primary counselling," she added.
There is also a need to raise awareness at multiple levels and encourage investment in public health issues, she added.
During the seminar, experts opined that if a worker goes through mental anguish, it affects his productivity.
Regarding the matter, Hanifur Rahman Lotus, chairman of BGMEA's Standing Committee on Health, said, "We are providing a worker-friendly-environment in most of factories."
Saying that the BGMEA is working on employees' nutrition and reproductive health, Lotus added that they are also making inroads in telemedicine, through which workers can receive counselling for both physical and mental health.
Tawhida Shiropa, founder and CEO of Moner Bondhu, said frustration and harassment in the workplace can have a serious effect on mental health, so one's place of work needs to be mental health friendly.
She said that "In the readymade garment industry, the issue of mental health needs to be addressed through recreation. Awareness needs to be raised on solving personal and family issues, which requires a change of perspective at all levels."
Monira Rahman, executive director of the Innovation for Wellbeing Foundation and country leader of Mental Health First Aid Bangladesh, said, "At the early stages, one can address a mental health issue simply through a change in lifestyle.'
"But we avoid seeking counselling for mental health issues because of social stigma," she said adding that peer support is very important in solving such issues.
Among others, Jamal Uddin, inclusive business advisor, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, and Manjurul Karim, senior executive (HRAC), Fakir Apparels Ltd, also spoke at the seminar.