The pandemic has disrupted people’s lives in every possible aspect and brought with it many stressors besides the anxiety over the disease COVID-19 itself. Added stress from the uncertainty of the future, unemployment, domestic violence, isolation from friends and family members and prolonged confinement contributed to a sharp decline in people’s mental health over time.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is a firm believer in taking a 360-degree approach to human development, and mental health-wellbeing is a tenet of SDG-3. As we get accustomed to the new normal of limited movements with extended periods of staying at home, it is important to tackle stress, depression and anxiety. Incidents of domestic violence and abuse have also increased during this time.

Meanwhile, fear and anxiety over the disease itself can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions both in adults and children. Practising effective coping mechanism in this time not only strengthens the individual but also strengthens families and communities to weather the many storms they have to face.

UNDP has been facilitating a project on psychosocial support, partnering with “Moner Bondhu” during COVID-19 for resilient community building since August. The project titled, “COVID-19 Response” will run till November with two separate but intertwined components: psycho-social counselling support and a mobile app on the matter. This includes the development of information, education and communication materials, live discussions and counselling on psycho-social issues on TV, pledges for TV and social media, online training course etc.

The project not only has a special focus on women and adolescents considering their traditionally restricted access to availing psychological help, but it also hopes to destigmatise the topic of mental health and sensitise people to psychosocial counselling. Capacity building, policy advocacy, knowledge management, reporting and documentation are also key tasks of the project.

This project is expected to pave the way for better policies surrounding mental health issues in Bangladesh, and normalise seeking psychosocial help during crises. Under this project, the helpline +8801776632344, supported by Moner Bondhu, is available 24/7 for anyone wishing to consult a trained professional.

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