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Over 20 million people have been suffering from various mental illnesses in the country of over 160 million people, according to a survey of the National Mental Health Institute (NMHI).

But there is no adequate skilled workforce or necessary infrastructure to treat this huge number of patients.

As per the NMHI survey of 2018-19, there are only 270 specialised physicians and 250 psychologists for counselling.

Against this background, a section of private hospitals are making a fortune instead of providing necessary treatment.

Director General of Health Services (DGHS) officials said they are unable to regularly monitor the functions of the private mental hospitals due to scarcity of manpower.

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The mental patients can in no way be beaten up and force cannot be used against them. They have to be calmed down verbally. If these strategies do not work, they have to be confined in a room.
Helaluddin Ahmed, associate professor, National Mental Health Institute and Hospital

Senior assistant superintendent of police Anisul Karim was beaten to death in such a private hospital on Monday.

After the incident, the alarming picture of mental health treatment at the private clinics started surfacing.

There are two government specialised hospitals, one in Dhaka and another in Pabna. Problems also exist there.

DGHS sources said there are 15 approved mental hospitals in Dhaka.

Prothom Alo investigation finds that the majority of the hospitals are not following the conditions of the licenses.

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There are no physicians, nurses and cleaners in proportion to the beds. A few medical officers mainly run the hospitals.

While visiting spots, this correspondent found that there is no suitable environment for the treatment of the mental patients in most of the hospitals. There are allegations of beating patients in the name of treatment.

Experts said mental patients need regular counselling. But there is no adequate workforce.

There are 105 drug addict rehabilitation centres in the capital. The Narcotics Control Department has approved these. These centres are providing treatment to the mental patients. There are allegations that they beat up patients.

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Police officer Anisul Karim died at Mind Aid Psychiatry and De-Addiction Hospital which has no approval from DGHS.

Taking license as a drug addict treatment centre, the hospital has been treating mental patients.

Tejgaon division police deputy commissioner Mohammad Harun-ur-Rashid is the investigation monitoring officer in the incident of Anisul Karim.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said they have found the names who tactfully took Anisul away from the mental health institute.

Except one, the government approved 14 private mental hospitals have been established near the National Mental Health Institute and Hospital. These are in Mohammadpur's Humayun Road, Babar Road, Shyamali, Adabar, Manipuripara, Farmgate and Green Road.

The remaining one is in Baridhara.

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Associate professor of the National Mental Health Institute and Hospital, Helaluddin Ahmed, is a member of inquiry committee formed to look into the death of Anisul Karim.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said the mental patients can in no way be beaten up and or force be used against them. They have to be calmed down verbally. If these strategies do not work, they have to be confined in a room.

Helaluddin said a recommendation will be made in the investigation report so that there is no private mental hospital within the vicinity of five kilometers of the mental health institute.

Prothom Alo investigation finds that most of the hospitals are not complying with the conditions.

Thikana Psychiatric and Drug addiction Clinic is located at B/Block at Humayun Road in Mohammadpur. The 20-bed hospital is supposed to have six physicians, 12 nurses and six cleaners. But this staff is not there actually.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, the hospital's manager Shahina Akhtar said the 20-bed hospital was launched 13 years ago. Four physicians treat patients by rotation in 24 hours. Four nurses and four cleaners also work there.

Shahina Akhtar said majority of the patients come from the National Mental Health Institute.

About the violation of conditions of license, DGHS director (Hospital and Clinic) Fariduddin Mia said the health directorate is unable to conduct drives at the private mental hospitals due to lack of an adequate workforce.

About the sorry state of treatment for mental patients, Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council (BMDC) chairman Mohammad Shahidullah said the DGHS has to hold meetings with the authorities of private mental hospitals and set a deadline to comply with the conditions.

If they fail to comply, their licenses have to cancelled, said Shahidullah.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.

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