Morjina lives in a rural village in Bangladesh.
When she was 12 she was taken out of school to marry her 25 year old cousin. At 13 she had a miscarriage, at 14 a stillbirth. When she was 15 she gave birth to her daughter and fell into an immediate depression.
Her husband’s family abused her and she had a psychological breakdown. She was sent back to live with her mother, but her mental health continued to deteriorate. She was disorientated, prone to violent outbursts and disappearing. Her mother would restrain her with chains when she went to work. It was the only way she knew to keep Morjina safe while she was out earning money to feed her family.
Morjina and her mother had nowhere to go for help or support.
Bangladesh has a population of 160 million people and only 50 clinical psychologists and 200 psychiatrists. There is no mental health infrastructure, no services to access for support.
What there are in abundance are myths; myths about mentally ill people possessed by the devil. There are lots of faith healers too, offering cures such as burying people up to their neck in soil and leaving them for 48 hours to purge out the demons. In her desperation, Morjina’s mother tried various ‘cures’. Each time Morjina’s mental health deteriorated in response.
Partnering with disability activists.
Last year we started a pioneering partnership with local disability activists to start tackling mental health stigma. Local activists found Morjina and took her to one of the few working psychiatrists. They got her a diagnosis of schizophrenia and a treatment plan. They showed Morjina’s mother how to give Morjina proper care and how to reach out to other families experiencing mental health crises.
It’s only the beginning but these are the seeds from which a powerful disability movement can grow; from the rural communities up to the corridors of power.
We know, because we’ve built these movements before. Across Africa and Asia local disability activists are fighting back to tackle negative attitudes and change lives. Morjina isn’t in chains anymore but the journey ahead for mental health activists in Bangladesh is long. They urgently need support.
Let's build movements together.
Millions of disabled people in Africa and Asia are still condemned to a life of poverty and exclusion. Right now, organisations of disability activists are working to fight discrimination and ensure every disabled person gets a fighting chance at living their best life. They urgently need your su
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