Spending three months volunteering in Bangladesh was a truly eye opening experience to the difficulties of international development and poverty. These are the words you’d expect most returned volunteers to say. However, one thing that I did not expect to learn during this experience was problems people face in my local area, country and even on a global scale.

Sat on the concrete floor in a YMCA in Bangladesh, was definitely not a place I’d ever think I would be learning about mental health.

Whilst conducting focus groups at the beginning of my placement, we found mental health was a problem in the area. During one of the focus groups with young men, very similar to me and my friends at home, they described how unemployment was a main cause of depression in the area. They said how they would love to come to the UK and get a job.

Young men's focus group

When they were surprised to hear that many people in the UK are unemployed, and struggle to find work. It dawned on me that could mental health be such a big problem in the UK as it is here?

Soon after the focus groups we dove into research on mental health problems, in order to give workshops in the surrounding communities, in effort to raise awareness, help remove any stigma and improve local understanding of mental health. Embarrassingly, during this time I became vastly aware of how little I knew, and how big of a problem it is globally.
1 in 6 people globally faced a mental health problem last week [1], mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide [2].

Research also highlighted how we could actually learn from some communities in Bangladesh. Although there was still a large stigma around mental health in the area, the young men in that focus group stated that they felt that they could talk about mental health problems in their community, as they were open and supported each other.

Mental health workshop in a local community

Just talking about mental health is beneficial.

A large problem lays in the UK and elsewhere is that people suffering from mental health find it difficult to talk about their problems, as it can be a seen as a sign of weakness.
Nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental health problem never seek help from a health professional [3].

Let’s talk about mental health.

Talking about mental health raises awareness, this can help give confidence to those suffering and helping them to talk about how they feel. It will also encourage people like me, who didn’t know too much about mental health to learn about it.
Although there is an increasing number of people talking about mental health there is still a long way to go.

Author: Nicholas Thompson

[1] McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016) Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital. Available at: [Accessed 11 January 2017]
[2] Vos, T., et al. (2013) Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. The Lancet. 386 (9995). pp. 743-800.
[3] WHO. (2001). World Health Report - Mental disorders affect one in four people. Available: Last accessed 29/01/2017.

1 comment

  • Katie Miller

    10 February 2017, 5.09pm

    So good to read Nick! Such a huge problem that needs to be talked about more!

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