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A Unique Intervention in the field of Mental Health Issue

Mahbuba Shilpi ::  As a pioneer organization, UTSA, one of the renowned NGOs in Bangladesh has initiated its intervention mainly for raising awareness about Mental Health issue through using Therapeutic Theatre tools as its organizational motto since 1997. UTSA began its journey by establishing area based and issue focused different Theatre Units to work on sustainable socio-economic and cultural development.

UTSA believes that theatre is one of the most effective tools for communicating awareness raising programmes. The Theatre Units of UTSA already have organized more than five thousand issue-based theatre shows in different areas of Bangladesh. The theatre shows have incorporated different issues like Child Labour, Labour Rights, Child Rights, Disabled People’s Rights, Women’s Rights, Gender, Sexual Harassment, Child Trafficking, Early Child Care development, HIV/AIDS, Strengthening Local Government, Population Growth, Disaster Management, Leprosy, Environmental Preservation, Drug Addiction and Abuse of Acid.

Besides theatre shows UTSA through its different Theatre Units and networks has implemented a number of theatre therapy based interventions, advocacy works and care giving services on different issues mainly focused on mental health issues, human rights and gender equity. UTSA can claim of having initiated to build up a strong networking through country wide either by patronizing or by having partnership with different institutions working for establishing human rights of PwDs, adolescents, oppressed women, victims of trafficking and other vulnerable community people. In the process of implementing the unique and imperative interventions UTSA has developed a number of Theatre Units and networks like TTCD, BTTI, CCBPC, BBL, KHRDI, RRTC, Dr. Jahangir Complex, ADF, CSD, AUDC etc. focused on a sustainable socio-economic and cultural development which ensures an inclusive democratic society free from all kinds of discriminations.

Through incorporating Theatre for Development and Therapeutic Theatre as a part of clinical psychology, it is not only possible to ensure the effectiveness of any kind of psychosocial care based development issues but also to bring human resource development by initiating a process to safeguard an interpersonal empowerment.

Physical development like financial development and sound infrastructural change is never to gain its sustainability without being reached to the acceptable level of people’s mentality that is formed by the socio-economic and cultural infrastructure. Actually the desired level exists within the sphere of the development of individual’s psychosocial aptitude. It is true for any type of socio-economic and cultural condition in the worldwide.

Here comes a question of the most effective communicative tools that simply convert the development initiative to its all-time practice. Theatre especially the Therapeutic Theatre tools can play a vital role in this regard. Due to the unique properties of theatre, it can be used very successfully as a form of counseling. Generally, counseling is purely talk therapy consisting of thought-provoking conversations aimed at increasing the client’s self-awareness. However, just talking about thoughts and emotions might not always be enough. All those emotions we experience require a physical outlet which Theatre Therapy can provide. The key premise on which this therapy rests is that creative art is a force that has the power to heal.

With the aim of developing the situation of Persons with Disability (PwD), underprivileged and different types of vulnerable people in Bangladesh, UTSA has introduced its social action related interventions through ‘Theatre Therapy’, ‘Psychodrama’, ‘Sociodrama’, ‘Playback Theatre’, ‘Living Newspaper Theatre’ and ‘Theatre for Development’. It is obvious that Theatre allows us the opportunity to experience the emotions like pain, anger, depression, anxiety and achieve catharsis for our own pent up emotions vicariously by watching the lives of the characters.

In Bangladesh, as one of the very few institutions since its inception UTSA has been playing a vital role either by arranging or by participating in the therapeutic theatre based dramas, exhibitions, workshops, seminars, and festivals to improve the mental health of adolescents, underprivileged community people and PwDs.

In addition to building therapeutic theatre units, other creative counseling and group psychotherapy tools UTSA with its two vital Theatre Units TTCD and BTTI has been organizing National Therapeutic Theatre Workshops (NTTW), conducted by international Theatre Therapists every year as one of its remarkable interventions aiming at developing expert Theatre Therapist resource persons since 2003. By the last 12 years more than 300 participants of different fields including persons with disabilities have received trainings under national and international scholars in the respective field.

Particularly working experiences with the school going adolescents suffering from emotional disorders, PwDs, victims and survivors of natural disasters like SIDOR and AILA as well as man-made disasters like KDS Tragedy, Mirsarai Tragedy, Savar Tragedy to mitigate the challenges of PTSD are the remarkable additions of uplifting the confidence level of UTSA team members. The desired achievement is still far reaching as in Bangladesh there is no National Mental Health Act.

Morover, there are fund crisis, shortage of resources and efficient manpower. Still UTSA believes that through the advocacy programmes and care giving services the vision of establishing an inclusive democratic society of people living with dignity, freedom and safety will come true soon of course with all kinds of supports come from influential philanthropic organizations as well as individuals at home and abroad.

To know more about UTSA’s various interventions, please visit the links given bellow: (see page 2) (See page number: 51)

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