Facebook Initiative to Break a Social Stigma

by Zulker Nayen Mahmud

In Bangladesh, the disgrace of being marked as a pagol, or insane person, is enough to keep individuals from looking for treatment of mental health problems. Almost 17 percent of Bangladeshi grown up people are having mental health issues, and 92 percent among them don’t look for assistance, according to a 2019 study. As mental issues are often neglected in our culture, we do lack good health mental doctors who can actually provide regular counselling on suicide, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other related issues. Individuals suffering from mental health issues are rather publicly harassed or stigmatized.

The year 2020 marked by the global pandemic added new dimension to the issue of mental health crisis. People living in isolation at home, inaction, loneliness, and anxiety over uncertainty or suffering for income erosion and loss of livelihoods, are facing a new kind of crisis. The overall situation has caused certain depression among many and in cases some tent to commit suicide. The people are suffering otherwise, too.

In this context, Facebook has announced that it is offering helplines for Bangladeshi clients by joining forces with local associations to support them to improve their mental wellbeing. Through Facebook, individuals can get support from programmes like Moner Bondhu, and Kaan Pete Roi at the National Institute of Mental Health and Hospital.

Facebook’s Community Guidelines cover approaches to addressing problems like suicide and self-injury. The social media networking company has fixed its arrangement to dodge inadvertently advancing or activating self-harm.

Experts suggest that just as physical health, mental health needs care. Former Miss Bangladesh Maria Mumu, also founder of “Moshal Foundation”, held an event on mental wellbeing on February 7, 2021. Its aim was to destigmatize mental illness. The event was titled “Baadh Bhenge Dao” (break the shackles). The event was an instructive course to empower Bangladeshi adolescents to have an open exchange of views with clinicians.

A sad and harsh realization for society during this pandemic is that many gave up hope about life because they were left alone. Covid-19 has compelled us to deal with isolation but this may not be the cause or only cause for concern. Depression, anxiety and suicidal tendency are a mental health issue. A person can become suicidal but its sign may not be visible until the very last moment. 

Although everyone in society has a role to play in supporting others, but in most cases, we forget, the person suffering from mental illness doesn’t find a person to confide to or express her/himself. They can’t often open up to family members, not because they are afraid, but because they feel that they will be misunderstood.

If a complaint is made, family common assumes that it may be an excuse for not studying or not being successful.

Studies show, one in every 10 people suffers from mental illness. However, fear of being stigmatized compels them to hide their problem. At one point, some choose a destructive path in absence of any solution to their crisis.

Therefore, the initiative by Facebook may open a new window for all those who have been suffering from anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Assistance from experts, if they seek online, maybe the best help and any social media platform could have offered such help. Maybe, Facebook’s initiative would help us address the issue and inspire many to support their friends and family members. Hopefully, many will be able to open up and talk about their problem and receive proper advice and care from such initiatives.

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