The mental health landscape of Bangladesh looks quite grim as more than 92 percent people suffering from mental illness do not seek any treatment, according to the National Mental Health Survey 2018-19.
The survey results also show as high as 17 percent adults and 14 percent children in the country have some form of mental disorder.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Non-communicable Diseases Control wing of the Directorate General of Health Services, and the World Health Organisation jointly conducted the survey on 7,270 adults aged 18-99 and 2,246 children aged 1-17.
The results, which were published at an event at the Krishibid Institute on Thursday, revealed that 92.3 percent of the adults suffering from mental disorders do not seek treatment for their condition, and 94 percent of the children with mental illness do not get any psychiatric care.
As high as 16.7 percent men and 17 percent women suffer from mental disorders. Mental health issues are more common in urban areas. Among those with mental health conditions, 18.7 percent are from urban areas and 16.2 percent from rural regions.
A total of 6.7 percent adults suffer from depressive disorder and 4.5 percent from anxiety disorder. Among the children, 5.9 percent suffer from neurodevelopmental disorders and 4.5 percent suffer from anxiety disorder.
According to experts, the number of people suffering from mental health issues are soaring, but a staggering number of people are not seeking any treatment. A meager 8 percent of those afflicted with a mental illness are getting treated for their condition.
Addressing the issue, Associate Professor of the National Institute of Mental Health Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed said, "Among the people with mental disorders, only 8 percent are getting treatment.
"Of that small number, 51.6 percent are getting treated by mental health professionals. The remaining 48.4 percent are getting treated through unscientific methods."
According to the survey, 24.2 percent of the people suffering from mental disorders get treatment at government hospitals, 5.5 percent from private practitioner psychiatrists, 33 percent from other doctors and 2.2 percent from homeopathy and unani doctors.
To resolve this serious issue, Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed recommended expanding the reach of psychiatric healthcare to district and upazila levels. He also spoke in favour of including the topic of mental health in the MBBS curriculum.
Dr Fakhrul Alam, former director of the Mental Health Institute, said, "Because of the unavailability of psychiatric healthcare, many are not getting treatment for their mental health conditions.
"To address the issue, psychiatric units should be built in every district and existing units at medical colleges across the country should be upgraded accordingly."
Health Minister Zahid Malik said, "Due to the social stigma attached to mental health issues, more than 90 percent of the people suffering from various disorders are not getting treatment from doctors. The matter is very concerning.
"Many people hide their mental disorders and try to blend in with the others, which is very concerning for the future generation. The government will give mental health conditions the same importance as the physical health issues."
The previous National Mental Health Survey was conducted from 2003 to 2005. The results had revealed that 16.05 percent adults suffered from mental disorders during that period.