Khola Mon is a mental health project based across seven districts of Bangladesh. With funds from Baillie Gifford, the project aims to scale up the Mental Motivator project implemented by Lepra Bangladesh in 2019.
Originally instigated in Sirajgonj, Natore, Bogura and Pabna districts, the Mental Motivator Project focussed on improving good mental health across communities where individuals and families experienced low self-esteem, low status, little social interaction and exclusion from within their immediate community and wider society. Mental health issues have long been synonymous with people affected by leprosy, with over half of people with newly diagnosed cases of leprosy and lymphatic filariasis (LF) developing anxiety and depression. Our pilot project identified 500 cases where people affected by leprosy or LF benefitted from mental health services and counselling.
With new funding, we have been able to widen the reach of the Mental Motivator Project to the districts of Dinajpur, Kurigram and Lalmonirhat. In addition, we have been able to follow up with beneficiaries and increase the number of front-line health workers.
Our first-hand research has shown that 90% of moderate or severe cases of mental ill-health can be found where Mental Motivators are not active in the community. It is evident that counselling together with other interventions bear a significant role in reducing anxiety, depression and prejudice for individuals and their families.
Khola Mon aims to improve mental health services for all so everyone feels supported and able to manage their mental wellbeing; our approach is always to be people-centred and to provide holistic care. Based on the principle “no health without mental health”, we have arranged self-help groups as well as self-care practice groups for people affected by leprosy and LF who have anxiety due to their disability, developed depression, experienced prejudice or face unemployment. Our team of Mental Motivators, working first-hand in communities, are real change-makers using their counselling skills, knowledge of disability rights and most importantly their listening and empathy skills to support many beneficiaries.
Nearly 500 participants have attended self-help or self-care groups, with each participant bringing their own experiences and stories to tell. Group meetings have been very effective in relaying COVID-19 information as many beneficiaries have concerns on the impact of the pandemic on their health and wellbeing. Our Mental Motivators have encouraged beneficiaries to take the COVID-19 vaccination whilst rumours and misinformation against the vaccination programme have been rife in local communities. We have advised on facemask etiquette, adequate sanitation in addition to counselling and mental health support. National lockdowns have had a big impact on the group meetings; however, our Mental Motivators have continued their unwavering support by using mobile communications to connect with beneficiaries and to continue fostering a support network for all.
The Khola Mon Project and the role of our Mental Motivators demonstrates how important it is to provide mental health support to people affected by leprosy or LF. Mental Motivators are catalysts who empower individuals and families to face each day. They are change agents in the community and help people for psychosocial wellbeing.
To strengthen the capacity on mental health issues for it’s staff and Mental Motivators, Lepra Bangladesh recruited Dr. Lipy Gloria Rozario (Sister Gloria), Teacher, University of Dhaka and Director and Counselling Psychologist, Healing Heart Counselling Unit, Carlotts Centre. With her assistance Lepra Bangladesh developed a training and counselling guideline (PROSHANTI) which helped the frontline counsellor and mental motivators on counselling tools and techniques.
Khola Mon is a learning, innovative and pilot project for Lepra Bangladesh which focused upon the full, holistic needs of people affected by leprosy and lymphatic filariasis, particularly in the COVID-19 pandemic.
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