The Tale of Two Schools: Investigating the Understanding of Mental Health by Students, Parents and Teachers in Rural and City Bangladesh

*Corresponding author: Linda E. O’Raw*, Zara Tariq, Victoria S. Lacey and Krajai Chowdhury

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original research



The main aim of the study was to investigate the understanding and attitudes of mental health held by students, parents and teachers using strength and difficulty questionnaire (SDQ) scores and qualitative responses. Attitudes towards mental health and well-being are important as they can increase stigmatization and prevent young people seeking help and support.


To assess the understanding of mental health needs of students the SDQ was administered to parents (n=18; rural n=12 and city n=6), teachers (n=22; rural n=16 and city n=6), and students (n=23; rural n=17 and city n=6). In addition to this, semi-structured interviews were undertaking with students (n=14; rural n=9; city n=5) and parents (n=14; rural n=8; city n=6). Further, written narratives were received from teachers (n=12; rural n=6; city n=6). SDQ results were subjected to the non-parametric Mann Whitney-U with the Bonferroni correction applied and qualitative data was analysed using thematic analysis.


SDQ results showed students in the rural location had significantly higher mental health needs than those in the city location (p<0.017). Thematic analysis revealed that parents in the rural location do not understand the term ‘mental health’ and therefore, it is not seen as a problem despite high needs. Teachers in all locations and parents in city location have a limited understanding of what mental health means.


There is a lack of understanding about what mental health by parents in the rural community and a limited understanding of what mental health is by all teachers and parents within the city community. Even though high-SDQ scores were observed in both the rural and city location, SDQ scores were significantly higher in the rural location. These findings support the need for future mental health advocacy within Bangladesh schools.


Mental health; School; Bangladesh; Education.