Scrolling through her Facebook newsfeed, Kanta saw a doctor's video talking about the emergency contraception's downsides. In the video, the doctor shared her recent experiences with teenage girls blindly depending on emergency contraception without understanding its risks.
"With the change in society, it has become necessary to discuss some uncomfortable issues, including the use of emergency pills by adolescents for birth control."
Kanta expected the comment section of the video would be full of hate messages. Surprisingly, there were very few negative comments in the thread. Instead, people were tagging others to spread the information about the damages emergency contraception does to our bodies.
Intrigued, Kanta did some further research and found an organisation named LifeSpring, a health care centre. It appeared they were tackling a lot of taboo healthcare topics such as erectile dysfunction, healthy intercourse, parenting, extramarital affairs, and much more.
All of this was an eyeopener. Until then, every doctor or healthcare professional Kanta had visited or encountered were loath to discuss even the most basic body issue, let alone a taboo topic.
But LifeSpring was clearly different. It is an organisation that believes that before prescribing any medicine to a patient, s/he needs counselling, so that s/he can openly talk about his/her problems.
"During my childhood, I have seen my mother suffer from dysthymia, a chronic form of depression. And more than medicine, she needed counselling, but the psychiatrist failed to understand this and made her live on medicines only. It compelled me to start the journey of LifeSpring – where patients are heard," shared Sayedul Ashraf, the lead psychiatrist, and managing director at LifeSpring.
LifeSpring conveys its message with a motto: redefining healthcare by providing quality services. To provide this service, Ashraf began the journey with his friend Yahia Md Amin, psychologist and chairman of LifeSpring, in 2017, as a mental health care centre on social media. Within a year, it became popular among the masses through word of mouth because of the quality of its service.
LifeSpring's target is to treat patients with care. Two weeks after providing its services, LifeSpring also collects feedback from patients and follows up again. Later, based on the feedback, it keeps updating the service.
"We do not allow the possibility of triggering any of our patients by mentioning their past because we are here to support them and not criticise or judge. Also, we do not prescribe medicines without any counselling session as it is against our ethics," the managing director explained.
A team of 77 people is dedicatedly working hard to run this healthcare centre. Moreover, it provides treatment related to psychiatry, rheumatology, internal medicine, dermatology and venereology, gynaecology, paediatrics, endocrinology and sexual medicine.
Most of LifeSpring's online educational content targets prevention and creates awareness. It has around 400-500 videos on its YouTube channel, with over 3 lakh 38 thousand subscribers. Around three crore people have watched their videos so far.
Patients primarily seek assistance for teenage depression, relationship issues, anxiety, and sexual health issues. Till now, LifeSpring has provided services to over 1 lac patients. As their services are available online, 8,361 expatriates from 17 countries have taken services from them. Notably, 65 percent of the patients are female, shared LifeSpring.
Mahfuza Khanam (pseudonym), a boutique owner, shared her experience of how LifeSpring helped her make life-changing decisions. She was stuck in a toxic marriage and suffering deeply from a myriad of abuses. When she came to LifeSpring, she wanted to 'save' her marriage.
"Yet that marriage was not worth saving. Rather, I was pushing myself to the edge and harming myself. It was not like my counsellor inspired me to make any decision. But they helped me realise my worth so that I could make my decision accordingly," said a confident Mahfuza.
It has been a year since Mahfuza's divorce, yet she has been taking sessions at least twice a year.
"There are times when I miss being with a partner and have guilt trips as I have a baby. But such sessions remind me that it is fine to seek company because it indicates that I am healthy. These sessions are not like taking advice from others. Instead, it is like sharing and deciding things on my own with a clear perspective. I think everyone could benefit from professional support as it enables one to live a healthy life," remarked Marufa.
Along with personal counselling, LifeSpring offers corporate services and child development services in schools. In the past few years, the demand for corporate service has significantly increased.
Unilever, British American Tobacco Bangladesh, Grameenphone, Robi Axiata Limited, and a few more corporate houses have been taking extensive services from them in physical and online counselling. These corporate monthly packages are available in LifeSpring within Tk300,000 to Tk1,000,000.
Explaining why such services are becoming popular, Ashraf said, "Research shows that when you invest in your employees' mental wellbeing, they perform better and bring you three times more returns." He hoped that more local and international corporate houses would start taking this service in the next two years.
And, in schools, children have also been suffering from serious mental health issues due to questionable parenting. But weekly sessions are usually enough to sort these. Any school can have these sessions by spending Tk40,000 to Tk100,000, monthly.
There are also open programmes and courses for parents on their websites. Around 3,500 parents have received LifeSpring's training. Their objective behind offering these courses is to reduce the number of patients. As these courses are available online, anyone from anywhere can attend them.
As expats and Bengali from all over the world show interest in their courses, LifeSpring plans to open a centre in Mumbai by next year. It also intends to open a branch in Chattogram within the next year, followed by branches in other divisional cities throughout Bangladesh.