Medical experts in Bangladesh have urged the government to update the Lunacy Act of 1912 to provide legal rights to those suffering from mental disorders and bring it on par with the laws in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan.
On the occasion of the World Mental Disorder Day Wednesday, psychiatrist Mohit Kamal said: "A draft proposal in this regard was prepared by the National Institute of Mental Health a few years ago, but it is gathering dust."
Around 22.5 million people over the age of 18 are suffering from mental disorders while there is only one psychiatrist for every 14 million people in Bangladesh, the New Age newspaper reported.
Worse still, there are only 900 beds in government hospitals for patients with mental illnesses. The statistics paint a gloomy picture of the state of the country's mental health care.
There are only 10 or 15 beds for mental patients in the government medical colleges while most private medical colleges do not have any beds for such patients. The Pabna mental hospital has 500 beds while the National Institute of Mental Health has 150.
"Many medical colleges do not even have any posts for professors of psychiatry. As a result, the patients remain deprived of specialised treatment," said A.H. Mohammad Firoz, the director of the National Mental Health Institute.
Bangladesh spends only 0.5 percent of its total health budget on mental health, according to the World Atlas 2005.
A survey conducted by National Institute of Mental Health in association with World Health Organisation (WHO) from 2004 to 2006 found that 5.67 percent of mental patients were suffering from acute and complex mental disorders and 4.61 percent of the patients with complex mental disorders were suffering from depression.
Referring to a study conducted in 2003, psychiatrist Mohammad Ali of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) said around 65.4 percent of people who intended to commit suicide were suffering from psychiatric disorders.
The total number of mentally ill people in South Asia is about 150 to 200 million, according to experts.