In the context of culture here, how do we bridge the gap between knowing about the service and needing the service, and actually making the call?
Well, first we start with the barriers. (Please let me know if you are reading this and can think of things I’ve missed.)
1. Financial – basically, not being able to afford the call or choosing that you would rather not spend the money on the call. There isn’t much to do about this one at this point. We are having conversations about making calls free eventually, but we do not have the resources at this moment to make that happen. Until this becomes a possibility, we may have to just accept this problem.
2. Logistical – not being able to make the call because you do not have privacy in which to do it. This is quite a common issue in the context of Bangladesh. Maybe by the time you’re done with work or classes, you can’t just hang around in a public place on the phone, you have to go home. Once you’re home, there’s no privacy. Again, not too much we can do. We can address this to a certain extent by opening up night shifts, which is something we are actively working towards. Being 24 hours will also take away the problem of our hours not matching up with the caller’s availability.
3. Not understanding what KPR does – this is only to be expected. Coming back to the point about first explaining what we are. A lot depends on how we choose to publicize. I am not particularly skilled at marketing, and we should probably get some experts on board. That being said, we know that what we’ve already done has worked to a certain extent, so at least we’re not completely off the mark.
4. Stigma – by far the most interesting and difficult problem to tackle. Stigma in all its shades. I am of course not fully equipped to take this on, but I’ll try and break it down a little bit anyway. Off the top of my head, here’s what we tend to bump into –
– Unwillingness to admit there’s a problem: An unwillingness to admit to oneself, and then an unwillingness to admit to others. Even to a stranger at KPR. It’s tough to say something’s wrong. The whole cliche of the first step being admitting there’s a problem.
– Unwillingness to ask for help: “I’m not the type.” “I would never call a helpline.” I’ve heard this from the most educated of people, and even when I think I understand it, it continues to surprise me.
– Bangladesh’s Silent Culture: In Bangladesh, as a rule, we do not talk about things that are unpleasant. This might be my child suffering from an addictions problem, me being harassed on the street, or my brother’s business falling apart. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Culture of silence, a terribly dangerous thing, and I like to quote Audre Lorde here, as I’ve done before on this blog: “Your Silence Will Not Protect You.”
– An aversion to conversations or services surrounding mental health issues: Ah, the big one. I could also call this point “Shame.” Ties right in to the above point, I suppose. I want to make a giant neon billboard that says, “It’s okay.” And just stand with it on the street. It is such a thing of embarrassment, of shame. Or of mean humor. When flyers were going up, people laughed and poked each other and said things like, “That’s for you, you need that.” None of this comes as a surprise, of course. It is much easier to make a mean joke or do a prank call as a way of dealing with this stuff than it is to actually say that your mother has schizophrenia.
Okay, this is a decent start, but certainly not complete. Now to actually unpack these issues. If you have thoughts on this, I would absolutely love to hear them.