From the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sadia was maintaining social distancing rules strictly. For months, she rarely had any chance to go out and meet her friends and family members. The absence of personal touch and communication due to the isolation had an adverse impact on her.
Not long ago, she felt stressed over trivial matters. Her depressing mood fluctuated from time to time. She was also suffering from frequent headache, nausea and could not concentrate on anything.
Once, she thought of consulting a psychologist but had no idea where to find one. As she sought help from her parents, they took the matter lightly and were of no aid at all.
While endlessly scrolling through social media, a mental health organisation named 'Psycure Organisation' caught her eyes. She readily made up her mind and booked an online session with a psychologist through its website. Lately, the organisation has provided her with a great deal of mental support.
"Overall, Psycure had a positive influence on my day-to-day life to help me deal with my problems better. But most notable is the fact that it was easy to connect with them, which is I think essential in situations arising from the Covid-19 pandemic," Sadia explained.
The story of founding the organisation
In a country with more than 160 million people, there are only 200 psychiatrists and 600 psychologists; while around 25 million people are suffering from some kind of mental-health related problems. Ironically, only two percent of psychology students have continued to work in this field professionally.
"As a student of clinical psychology at the University of Rajshahi, I always thought of doing something for the profession itself and at the same time to provide quality services to a larger portion of the population," said Murad Ansary, founder of Psycure. This impulse led him to build such a platform.
From the time of its inception, Psycure has grown to become one of the most promising startup organisations working on mental health issues through counselling and therapy.
Simultaneously, they are also involved in creating and spreading awareness through workshops on pressing mental health-related topics.
The unique characteristics of the organisation are that it is organised and maintained by a combination of youths and professionals. Initially, Psycure's journey began in 2019 as a club by some students at Rajshahi University.
The primary objective was to provide skill development training for the undergrad Psychology and Clinical Psychology students at the University. Since then, it has expanded into more. Gradually its activities spread in other universities and incorporated professional psychologists.
According to Murad, Psycure has reached out to around 35,000 people with all their services. Also, they have successfully provided counselling to 2,500 people and trained 4,600 youths through their various workshops.
Moreover, they have had the privilege to collaborate and receive support from some of Bangladesh's most high-profile organisations. Till now, they have worked with BYLC, Square, American Corner, EMK Center, US embassy, Youth opportunities, 10 Minute School and the Ministry Of Women and Children Affairs.
"Though we cannot deny the need for mental health services in Bangladesh, the truth is these services are not readily available to mass people. Besides, many people are not aware of mental health services. So, we tried to create a platform to make mental health services more available to the masses. People will get any kind of mental health service at any time," Murad said, explaining the objective of their undertaking.
How do they run their operation?
Tasnuva Huque, a professional psychologist and academic, is overseeing the organisation as a chairperson. When she first came to know about Psycure through Facebook and from her colleagues, she found it to be quite promising. And when Psycure offered her the chief psychologist's position, she had no second thought on accepting it.
A 13-membered team of young psychologists, supervised by Tasnuva, are providing therapy from the beginning of Psycure's journey. Although all of them are engaged academically or in other professional practices, they have still continued their work at Psycure to feed their passion to help people, with the belief that hard work will be paid off.
Tasnuva Huque went into details on what kind of therapeutic tasks and services they perform. She also shed light on the possibilities and challenges psychologists face, saying that there are some changes in trends, mostly in a positive direction.
"We are organising workshops at universities, where we hear about many different problems people, mostly students, are going through. Those attending our individual counselling sessions could talk about their problems deeply," Tasnuva said.
She added, "It is interesting to see that a young group of people are at both the service provider's and receiver's end. Commonly, we handle anxiety, stress and depression which are globally rising, too. On the individual level, we get to know about serious trauma, adjustment issues with parents, failure issues in professional or academic life, relationship issues, etc."
Particularly, after the lockdown, Psycure has been mainly operating online. Two of the most common issues they are confronted with are stress and depression. Daily life stress, difficulty in finding coping strategy, difficulty in adjustment in the uncharted scenarios of the isolation are the most common issues. Young university going students form the larger slice of people who are taking their help.
In terms of addressing the problems, they perform specific area-based workshops and one-on-one sessions. Along with these, mindfulness, meditation, skill development and coping strategy and management tactics such as stress and anger management classes are also frequently held. The purpose of the latter is to bring the thoughts of people suffering from these issues to light.
Mental health issues are often shrouded in social stigma and associated as taboo. But in recent years, there has been a lot of talk in this regard. Tasnuva admitted that this was a positive sign. All the discussions and dialogues are also helping in slowly creating awareness and erasing the taboos and social stigmas.
"But some wrong concepts are also forming. A group of people are acting as counsellors although they do not possess any professional and rigorous training. Sometimes it seems like everyone understands psychology. As a result, many are misguided and have a wrong notion about the profession," Tasnuva warned about the challenges that lie ahead.