Mental Health First Aid Bangladesh


Around 450 million people suffer from mental health problems and it ranks 4th in top ten global disease burden. Depression is the second leading cause of disability worldwide. Every 40 seconds someone is taking their own life in the form of suicide. In Bangladesh, the 2003-2005 national survey suggests that approximately 53 million Bangladeshi are suffering from mental illness. Compare that to only 200 psychiatrists, 50 clinical psychologists and 800 beds dedicated to mental health services in the state level. Altogether they cover only 1% of the estimated needs and the treatment is predominantly based on medical model. Despite additional mental health services provided by Non-Governmental Organizations and private clinics, the response to mental illness in Bangladesh is nowhere close to the extent needed. Government response has been limited to the Lunacy Act 1912 and a modern Mental Health Act is yet to be finalized. 


For a systematic, sustained reform of mental health provision in Bangladesh, the IWF has been formed to provide leadership in tackling the problem. The aims of the IWF are:

  1. People with mental health problems have access to evidence based holistic and integrated therapeutic services;
  2. Para-professionals are properly trained to support clinical staff and  to deliver Mental Health First Aid;
  3. Rights of people with mental health problems are protected and promoted;
  4. Change in social attitudes to counter the stigma associated with mental illness.


MHFA was first developed by Professor Tony Jorm and Betty Kitchener OAM in Australia in the year 2000 with an aim to provide high quality, evidenced based mental health first aid education to everyone.

Regular first aid courses are recognized as improving the public's skills in giving initial and appropriate help at medical emergencies but, unfortunately, most of these courses do not address helping with mental health problems. 

MHFA will ensure that the skills to assist people with mental health problems will spread beyond mental health professionals, and that the program will fulfill its aim of contributing towards improved support, early detection and treatment of mental health problems and reducing the stigma attached to mental illness.


MHFA Bangladesh emerges as the 24th country to adopt and adapt mental health first aid. Commissioned by MHFA Australia, MHFA England in partnership with Innovation for Wellbeing Foundation started the process to launch, develop and roll out the MHFA course across Bangladesh with MHFA England making a contribution equivalent to £40,000 towards this partnership. 

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England is a Community Interest Company and accredited by Public Health England. The company facilitates and delivers a number of Mental Health First Aid courses, including standard MHFA, Youth MHFA, MHFA Workplace, MHFA Lite and Armed Forces MHFA.  

National Training Team (NTT): 

A National Bangladeshi Resource Team of 16 experts from a wide range of backgrounds has been established and are adapting the MHFA course for the Bangladeshi audience. A wide range of high level support has already been established, including Ministry of Health, the National Institute of Mental Health, World Health Organisation, Bangladesh, DFID Bangladesh, Grameen Caledonian College of Nursing and Taranga an NGO.

With a launch event on 9 April at the Dhaka, the MHFA course is set up to begin educating, changing lives and attitudes and increasing the care and empathy for those affected by mental ill health across Bangladesh.


From participants on the first MHFA course in Bangladesh (March 2015): “Mental Health First Aid opened up a whole new world of discourse about mental health I never knew I would have had an opportunity to be a part of. I really look forward to having our own community open up their mind about knowing more about mental health and discuss in a public platform through this course.” “So much knowledge and understanding in such a short time – this course is very relevant and important to our society.” “It is very helpful for eliminating stigma if spread out to larger audience.”