Digital mental health services to rebuild inclusiveness

Govt urged for Digital Health Policy

A dialogue session on mental healthcare was organized at the liaison office of Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur on Thursday. The program was facilitated by Dr. Wazed Research and Training Institute, Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur, Digital Healthcare Foundation, Dhaka, Eminence, Bangladesh and Western Sydney University, Australia.

Professor Dr. Shuchita Sharmin, Department of Development Studies, University of Dhaka, presented her keynote paper in today’s healthcare dialogue. She mentioned that mental well-being is a fundamental component of WHO’s definition of “health”. While SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages- talks about wellbeing, target 3.4 specifies further referring to promoting mental health and well-being. However, 14% of the global burden of disease is attributed to Mental, neurological, and substance use disorders and most of the people affected by these (75% in many low-income countries) do not have access to the treatment they need. The National Mental Health Act 2017 was approved by the cabinet in January 2018. Moreover, the government enacted the National Mental Health Policy after amending several acts. Some challenges of mental healthcare followed by limited accessibility due to poor network, poor knowledge about how to use digital service and lack of faith and fear of fraud in digital services. The concerned authority should focus on to make easy the Language (Bengali required) and even the comprehensive language of psychological explanations.

In the time of Corona- depression, stress, panic, helplessness, hopelessness, possible suicide, sleeplessness, anxiety, and fear of death are common realities being reported. Collaborative and coordinated planning and proper implementation is required for addressing present and forthcoming mental health challenges. Training, efficiency and accountability of the service providers may bring citizen’s confidence (positive) or lack of faith (negative) on such service. In this era of Digital Bangladesh, our aim is to provide necessary Web-based and mobile interventions to prevent and treat mental disorders and increase psychological well-being. Digital mental health services may open ways to rebuild inclusiveness and to build better. We must focus on the existing knowledge and adopt those in a culture specific manner. We must form collaboration internationally and at a multi-stakeholder level. Innovation and indigenous knowledge will lead us on our way for healthy citizens.

Rosanna Cousins, Ph D, an Associate Professor of Health Psychology at Liverpool Hope University, UK, remarked that the present digital and mental health system of the countries between UK and Bangladesh are common. She added that Telehealth had been focused and prioritized by the former Prime Minister Theresa May in 2019. It was a realization of Rosanna from her previous experiences on telehealth projects that patients appreciate telehealth system more than the conventional medical services. She also emphasized on internet access, self help and mental health apps from where people can take proper guidelines. In the case of clinical health support and ethical issues she pointed again and again to emphasize on individual person more than technology. It will avoid any sort of challenges and problems regarding mental and digital health system.

Dr. Kingsley Agho, Senior Lecturer, School of Health Sciences, Western Sydney University, Australia shared his view with other discussants from his experience on Australian health system that digital health platform can be an alternative method in Bangladesh but still there are some challenges which should be handled properly. He mentioned that we should focus to work on child nutrition and communicable disease. He suggested that government should provide technological support by ensuring Smartphone with internet services for all to access digital healthcare.

Dr. Shamim Hayder Talukder, Chief Executive Officer, Eminence, Bangladesh he shared some words from his personal case study that people are very much worried for the current pandemic situation whether they are being affected by COVID-19 or not, they are facing different challenges to get medical treatment. Therefore, he emphasized on digital platform to reduce mental stress and psychological problem so that it will become easy to get normal treatment and necessary mental healthcare services.

The Dialogue Session was moderated by Dr. Tanvir Abir, who is an Associate Professor of International University of Business Agriculture and Technology, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He asked several analytical questions to the discussants as per present situation and coordinated the session through interactive and argumentative way with a view to come up with a new technological innovation in mental healthcare with reference to COVID-19.

The Healthcare Dialogue Session was presided over by Professor Dr. Major Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah, BNCCO, Director, Dr. Wazed Research and Training Institute, Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur and Vice-Chancellor of Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur. In his concluding remarks, he discussed on mental health and digital health systems. He accentuated more on arranging such kind of dialogue sessions which has become the demand of time. He again said that it is high time we have to cope up with this pandemic situation and live accordingly. He requested to the government and the stakeholders to formulate a ‘Digital Health Policy’ providing necessary assistance to the public and private entrepreneurs those who are working for digital healthcare.

Brigadier General Md Abdul Hamid, ndc, psc (LPR), Chairman of Digital Healthcare Foundation, Dhaka congratulated all the guests for their relevant and informative discussion on the above mentioned issue. He stated that we should take proper initiative immediately to provide mental healthcare facilities to all by using Digital Platform. Finally, he emphasized on the importance of telemedicine at community level which is the only way to reach the required healthcare services.


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