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World Mental Health Day through the lens of mental health practitioners in Bangladesh

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Psycure Organization and BYLC jointly organised a webinar on October 10, in observance of World Mental Health Day, with the theme “Mental Health in an Unequal World.”

The event was supported by Rokomari .com, The Daily Star, and Science Bee. Representatives from each organisation were present. The event was graced by 150 beneficiaries.

The public panel discussion was moderated by Fabia Firoze, Chairperson of Psycure Organization and a program implementation coordinator with the Asia Foundation. Fabia was named as one of the three Global Youth Ambassadors for Gender Equality (SDG 5) by the Asian Development Bank. She was recognised by the CT Secretary of State for her outstanding service to the State of Connecticut in the US, and received the David. B Walker Award by the University of Connecticut for her tireless dedication to public service.

Furthermore, she worked with renowned organisations such as the Clinton Foundation, BRAC, and US government agencies.

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The three panelists were Azharul Islam, Assistant Professor of the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology of University of Dhaka and a bestselling psycho-fiction writer, as well as Dr M Tasdik Hasan, a medical doctor and public health specialist and a research associate at the University of Liverpool, UK and Monira Rahman, the founder of Innovation for Wellbeing Foundation which promotes mental health equity for sustainable development.

Rahman has been the Country Lead for Mental Health First Aid Bangladesh and is an Amnesty International Human Rights Defender Awardee.

The webinar covered various relevant issues such as parent-child attitudes towards mental health, the disparity in availing services, and ways to remove this disparity in Bangladesh.

Fabia Firoze started the discussion by focusing on the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on people’s mental health. Some groups, including health and other frontline workers, students, as well as those living alone, those living with and taking care of their families and those with pre-existing mental health conditions have been particularly affected. About 2 crore people in Bangladesh have been found to be suffering from mental disorders, according to a government survey.

Although Bangladesh has been identified as a country with a dire need of mental health services by the international community, the government spends only 0.44 percent of the national budget in this sector, and currently, there are only 0.073 psychiatrists per 100,000 populations. So, there is a critical need to cater to the mental health requirements of Bangladesh, mentioned Firoze.

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Azharul Islam spoke at length about how more investment in research for culturally appropriate and indigenous solutions, and infrastructure development can help increase the availability and accessibility of mental health services. People are nowadays actively seeking psychological help. Yet, the lack of services outside Dhaka City is a big problem, Islam mentioned.

He emphasised on the delicate and time-intensive nature of encouraging a mass behavioral change in accepting and dealing with mental health issues. Furthermore, he stressed that the government can introduce a hotline number for citizens to discuss issues related to mental health.

Monira Rahman spoke about the necessity of public and private sector partnerships in tackling the gap in mental healthcare in Bangladesh. Despite the formulation of government policies concerning the biological care of mental issues, the implementation of such policies is a responsibility of both the public and private sectors, mentioned Rahman. She highlighted the importance of experts for social rehabilitation and integration, which are vital for recovery.

She emphasised on implementing a comprehensive Biopsychosocial model to enhance treatment and prevention strategies related to mental health issues. These strategies need to be established since changes in biological, social, and psychological influences are salient components to address mental health. She emphasized that prevention through developing resilience, self-care, and emotional awareness will take us far in improving mental healthcare services in Bangladesh.

The discussion further explored mental health as a career and addressed the differences between service providers in the medical field and psychological field. Quality assurance and the seeming lack of public faith in mental health services need to be addressed in the mental health sector, the discussants noted. All the panelists weighed on why high-tier psychologists are so few in the field, what may incentivise prospective students to choose mental health as a career, and addressed the critical role of non-professionals such as peer workers and lay counsellors in providing mental health services.

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They reiterated that awareness, education, and understanding of mental health are success factors to address mental health in Bangladesh.

Dr M Tasdik Hasan mentioned many factors that create an unequal world, in terms of mental health. He discussed the need for social inclusion and the significance of empathy for improving the lives of people in crisis. To illustrate the importance of such psychological techniques, he spoke of his childhood experience of bullying, when sharing his experience with a teacher had helped him overcome his insecurities.

It helped him identify his individual strengths, which changed his life in a positive manner.

He also talked about the importance of understanding when one is in need of help, and indeed, in what respect. He discussed how those who don’t recognise the signs of deteriorating mental state often don’t have appropriate coping strategies and can end up feeling overwhelmed and out of control, which can hamper their daily activities. These are signs that one needs to see a mental health service provider, either a professional psychologist or a counsellor, who can conduct appropriate assessments, he mentioned.

Though the process of changing the mental health landscape may be a long and tedious process, the mental health practitioners were hopeful that if everyone comes together, we can promote mental health for all in Bangladesh. The public panel discussion ended with an interactive question and answer session with the participants.

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The most influential and award-winning tech journalist based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. President of Bangladesh Tech Journalists umbrella association name Bangladesh ICT Journalist Forum(BIJF).He works for The Daily Ittefaq and is responsible for covering news, editing posts, reviewing devices, producing video reviews, and communicating with the reader base. Journalist, editor, technology, personal technology, reviews, features, analysis, media.

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Youth

Joy to distribute Joy Bangla Youth Award tomorrow

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Prime Minister’s ICT Adviser and CRI Chairman Sajeeb Wazed Joy will announce the Joy Bangla Youth Award 2023 winners at a ceremony in Savar, on the outskirts of the capital, tomorrow.

The country’s biggest youth award giving ceremony, recognising the efforts of young visionaries to turn around their communities, will kick off at 2:20pm at Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Youth Development at Savar.

This year marks the seventh edition of the ceremony. The event will be aired live on private television channels in addition to its broadcast on the Facebook pages of print, electronic, and digital media. CRI, the ruling Awami League’s research wing, will air the event live on its Facebook page.

The award will be given in six categories after selection from more than 750 applications from all over the country.

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According to Young Bangla, the country’s largest youth platform which organizes the event, the field visit was done after scrutinizing the applications initially received this year. From there, the names of the final winners will be announced.

The award recognizes the best youth organizations in Bangladesh for their humanitarian work and contribution to society. The biggest youth platform Young Bangla has been hosting Joy Bangla Youth Award since 2015.

In the previous six seasons, 145 youth-led organizations have been honored through this award. Along with that, their success story has been presented to the people of Bangladesh.

This year, the awards are given to organizations of people aged 18 to 35 in six categories. The categories are skills and employment, arts and culture, community well-being, social inclusion, climate and environmental innovation and communication. Organizations under this category include women empowerment, child rights, empowerment of persons with disabilities, empowerment of backward people, employment and innovation, creativity and entertainment, knowledge and capacity development, empowerment of the extreme poor, environment and climate change, health care, socio-cultural initiatives, disasters risk reduction and emergency service delivery.

Young Bangla is currently working as the largest youth platform with more than 300 organizations in addition to the organizations that received the Joy Bangla Youth Award.
 
Along with these organizations, more than 50 thousand volunteers and more than 3 lakh members are associated with Young Bangla. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina became a member of Young Bengal in May 2022.

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Since its inception in November 2014, Joy Bangla Youth Award, named after the historical pro-liberation slogan ‘Joy Bangla’, Young Bangla, the youth front of CRI, has been awarding young people of organisations run by young people whose vision and initiatives catalysed positive change in society.

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Youth

World Bank Helps 900,000 Rural Youth in Bangladesh with Better Employability and Entrepreneurial Opportunities

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The government of Bangladesh and the World Bank today signed a $300 million financing agreement to equip about 900,000 economically disengaged rural youth with skills and alternative education needed for employment and entrepreneurship. About 60 percent of them will be female.

The Economic Acceleration and Resilience for NEET (EARN) Project will help overcome barriers that prevent disadvantaged and vulnerable youth from gaining education and employment. It will provide skills training, alternative education, employment, and entrepreneurial support to rural youth who are not in education, employment, or training (NEET). The project will establish vocational training centers to offer a range of skills development opportunities and provide online and offline training courses in market-driven and futuristic trades. They will be in locations convenient to rural youth, especially female. It will also and offer competitive financing and mentorship support for entrepreneurial activities. It will help secondary school dropouts, particularly female students to complete vocational secondary education. 

“The youth are the future of any country. Creating a well-equipped competitive workforce, where no young person is excluded, is a critical development priority for Bangladesh,” said Abdoulaye Seck, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan“The project will help develop a competitive workforce through skill development, continuity of education, and employment opportunities while addressing underlying cultural and social norms that drive exclusion, particularly for women, people with disabilities, and ethnic minorities.”

In Bangladesh, about 27 percent of youth that is about 12.6 million people are classified as NEET. About 90 percent of them are female, mostly living in rural areas. To enhance their employability, the project will offer skills development training for a wide range of market-relevant trades with an emphasize on modern and non-traditional trades, especially for women.

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For secondary school dropped-out youth and adolescents, the project will provide access to Bangladesh Open University education programs through an accelerated curriculum. They will be able to access diploma-level technical education in fields such as nursing, medical technology, agricultural food processing and other courses. To support entrepreneurship, the project will provide seed financing, mentorship, and other relevant supports to the new entrepreneurs. 

 “The government placed high priority on economically engaging the youth, particularly female and disadvantaged ones, who are not in education or employment through skill development,” said Sharifa Khan, Secretary, Economic Relations Division, Government of Bangladesh“This project is aligned with the Eighth Five-Year Plan 2021-2025 and support the country’s graduation from LDC status in 2026 and the vision 2041. It will support the government plans and policies by establishing a comprehensive support mechanism for economic engagement of the rural NEET youth, including the persons with disabilities, and segment of the population with special needs, which is essential.”

To create a supportive environment for youth to participate in skill development activities, the project will launch communications and awareness-raising campaigns and involve the communities in planning and monitoring the project activities. It will also provide incentives in terms of stipend, examination fees, and textbooks to motivate the youth, especially women. It will also promote sports and cultural activities and provide psychosocial support to youth.

The agreement was signed by Sharifa Khan and Abdoulaye Seck on behalf of the Government and the World Bank, respectively. 

The concessional credit is from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) and has a 30-year term, including a five-year grace period. 

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Bangladesh currently has the largest ongoing IDA program totaling $15.86billion. The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh and has committed about $40 billion in grants, interest-free and concessional credits to the country since its independence.

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Bangladeshi Nabanita in Forbes’ 30 under 30 Toronto list

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Nabanita Nawar, a Bangladeshi researcher and entrepreneur residing in Canada, has recently been featured in the Forbes’ ’30 Under 30 Local: Toronto’ list. This is the popular business magazine’s first-ever list of this kind, and she is the only Bangladeshi to be featured. The list is a part of Forbes’ local series where they attempt to highlight the bright minds from major cities across the world.

Nabanita is the co-founder of HDAX Therapeutics, a company pioneering the development of the treatment for peripheral neuropathy, a condition that affects over 30 million people globally. Due to nerve damage brought on by chemotherapy, diabetes, injury, or genetics, peripheral neuropathy patients experience discomfort, loss of sensation, immobility, and paralysis. Presently, the advancement of the disease cannot be slowed down, stopped, or reversed by medication. According to their progress so far, patients could receive doses of HDAX by 2025.
“I am very grateful, and honoured, to be a part of this prestigious list,” Nabanita shared in a conversation with The Daily Star. She added, “While it is very challenging to be working at the forefront of innovation, it is definitely a fulfilling and rewarding experience.”

The Forbes ’30 Under 30 Local 2023: Toronto’ list also included Pimyupa Manaswiyoungkul, another co-founder of HDAX Therapeutics who serves as chief operating officer (COO), while Nabanita is the company’s CEO. The company has collaborated with leading cancer research facilities from all across the world and has submitted several patent applications. It was built on the foundation of five years of academic research at the University of Toronto and has raised more than $800,000 in funding so far.

Nabanita graduated from the University of Toronto with a PhD in medicinal chemistry and a BSc in biological science. She has over eight years of experience in the fields of scientific policy, leadership, and drug discovery. Due to her work in this area, she was honoured with the ‘2022 Rising Star’ distinction from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. She was also awarded the ‘Canadian Silver Medal’ from the Chemical Institute of Canada.

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According to Forbes, Toronto is the pulse of Canada’s business and tech life, and has been called the next Silicon Valley. In this first-of-its-kind list, Forbes outlines Toronto as a city renowned for its entrepreneurial and multicultural spirit, as well as world-class educational institutes. Other inclusions in the list include personalities from many different areas, including tech, science, sports, and arts.

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