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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Port Dhaka

Day One – 23 February, 2012

I shall begin by providing an introduction to Bangladesh and its capital, Dhaka.  I am lucky enough to have visited Bangladesh two years ago, with colleague Dr Ashique Selim, when scoping for partners for the RCPsych link.  Despite this previous trip, nothing quite prepares you for the colour, noise (and traffic) that hits you after landing – certainly a dramatic wake-up call following an overnight flight.  Dhaka is a vibrant, energetic and rapidly expanding city, currently home to around 12.5 million of Bangladesh’s 160 million population.  With an area the size of England and Wales, makes Bangladesh the fourth most populated country (after the city states of Monaco, Singapore and Malta), and is set to rise to 180 million by 2015.  The rapid expansion, of course, leads to challenges in areas such as future health-care and social provision. Another major topic of conversation when discussing Bangladesh is water.  The geography is dictated by the great Himalayan rivers that pass through Bangladesh – the Brahmaputra and Ganges, the delta of which forms the majority of the coast-line.

Port in the Old Town, Dhaka

Bangladesh has both a rich cultural history, and a turbulent political history.   The majority of the population is Muslim, with smaller pockets of Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity.  In Dhaka itself, the influence of the various cultures and religions is perhaps best physically demonstrated within the old town.  Ancient Mughal forts and mosques lie along-side Buddhist and Hindu temples.  More recent history is dominated by Bangladesh Independence in 1971 following the Liberation War and despite many political twistings and turnings over the past 40 years, Bangladesh is undergoing a period of relative stability, under the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina government.

The Bangabandhu Sheik Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) is a major Government training institute for post-graduate doctors specialising in mental health. It is located within central Dhaka and my placement there commences tomorrow. In the next entry I shall describe the BSMMU in more detail as well as look at the provision of mental health care in Dhaka and Bangladesh as a whole.

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About this blog

Dr Adrian Phillipson







Dr Adrian Phillipson is an ST5 in general adult psychiatry, based in South Yorkshire.  He is currently part way through a year out from his training rotation, utilising the time to pursue research and travel interests.  Adrian is the first psychiatrist to take part in a new Royal College of Psychiatrists Volunteer Scheme Link with the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  He hopes that this blog will provide good insight into the link, and will encourage others thinking of taking part in the volunteer scheme.

Adrian’s attraction to transcultural psychiatry stemmed from a chance encounter with a local practitioner in Malawi in 2003, where he witnessed a traditional healing ceremony for psychosis.  He has further developed his interest through completing a masters degree in Transcultural Mental Health Care at Queen Mary, University of London, as well as through further overseas exposure.   In 2010 Adrian made an initial scoping visit to Bangladesh to look at mental health services and help establish a sustainable link.  A report from this project can be found here.