Natasha, who had just left college and entered the university, had been depressed for a few days. Whether in a chat with friends or a family meeting, it seemed as if there was a wide gap between her and everyone which was keeping her separated from everyone. A close friend of hers was quite surprised when she realised sudden changes in a smiling girl like Natasha. One prominent reason was that she was unable to adapt to the new environment of the university. As a result, she wrapped herself up little by little and transformed from a bright, happy soul to a quiet girl.
There are many people around us, like Natasha, who are slowly losing their identity due to lack of people to talk to or just a lack of confidence. They keep themselves away from others. "This matter does not carry any importance, I will adapt if I stay alone and quiet," they try to find the reasons by themselves but in the process they end up being upset mentally.
While thinking about these issues, Tansen Rose, a former student at Dhaka University, thought of an organisation that would work on mental health as well as prepare young people as skilled individuals to face the upcoming future challenges. He shared his thoughts with some other university students. The Aachol Foundation started its journey on April 25, 2019 as a reflection of everyone's thoughts.
The Aachol Foundation is a youth-based social organisation main goal of which is to work on the mental health of young people and make them proficient in various aspects of daily life.
Just like a mother who always protects her child in her shade, the Aachol Foundation extends an empathetic and innovative arm of self-expression to all the young people who come under its shadow, allowing them to optimise their talents.
Since its establishment in 2019, the Aachol Foundation has undertaken several activities. They organised a suicide awareness programme at different halls of Dhaka University. Not limited to Dhaka University, Aachol Foundation expanded its services to different places and different universities including Jagannath University, Jahangirnagar University, Brac University, North South University, Green University, Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET) etc.
After observing the deteriorating mental situation during Covid-19, Aachol foundation has taken an initiative to record the data of people who committed suicide during the pandemic. It took tremendous and continuos efforts to assemble suicidal data which showed 14,436 people in Bangladesh committed suicide in one year during the Covid-19 pandemic. After that, Aachol Foundation started digging to seek the findings of why people committed suicide, why is depression among youths increasing gradually, why female youths in the country face mental health issues.
These activities revealed another aspect of Covid impact on mental health, an aspect of anxiety mixed with some frustration. Covid complicated the mental health issues as everyone was battling simultaneously with a variety of mental issues in isolation. And as mental issues accumulated, at some point, their weight became so heavy that it became unbearable.
Realising this issue, Aachol Foundation started offering free counselling service to the young people who became mentally ill during the Covid period. They struggled to cope up with the new situation and were unable to take care of themselves. Many of them who spent their time at home in Covid-19 had mental illness. To assist individuals in their mental recovery, the foundation hosted a variety of seminars, workshops, training, webinars and online activities.
Apart from Dhaka-centered activities, the members of the region were also keen on creating country-wide awareness and hosted the country's first virtual national debate contest entitled "Suicide, No More." About 32 teams from all over the country took part in it. There was also work to be done on mental health awareness.
Tansen Rose, the founding president, was asked how he handled so much of his area's work. He gave a very honest yet moving answer: "I have with me a group of indomitable young people who know how to overcome obstacles, know how to keep their morale in the face of adversity. My team is my strength. They inspire me to take the region a long way."
"What is the purpose of this organisation?" he was asked. He replied, “We aspire to reduce suicide rate to zero and strive to eliminate the taboo associated with mental issues which are common everywhere yet hushed by society. As we know, if the economy is growing, so is mental illness.
We dream of proving that this theory does not reflect reality. There is another purpose of our organisation; by 2025 we want to create impacts on 50 million people in Bangladesh."
There are many ways and areas of human service, why work with mental health? Samira Akter Siyam, general secretary of the Aachol Foundation, replied to this question: “The term mental health is not very popular in our country. When there is a disturbance in physical health, we effortlessly share it with everyone and we go to the doctor. Although there is sympathy for mental well-being, proper care is not taken for mental health.”
Going to a psychologist for mental health issues in Bangladesh is like a luxury. Although there is some awareness in the cities, it can be said that there is no awareness in the villages. This initiative of Aachol Foundation aims to spread awareness by raising a voice against this social taboo.
The Aachol Foundation wants to work towards building a mentally and physically healthy nation, so that they can contribute to the development of society.
The Aachol Foundation, which was formed three years ago with a few members to establish mental health as a normal ailment in society, today has a big family of more than 500 members. The number of members of this family is constantly increasing.
Aachol Foundation is moving forward with a passion for work and an entrepreneurial spirit. Although the Aachol Foundation came into existence as a realisation of one person's thoughts, today it has brought light and hope to the lives of many. “It is our wish that many more find their way in the light of this hope. If we are not the one who changed society, then who will?" Tansen Rose smiled with confidence.