Ms. Parvin Sultana (pseudo name) is a mother of two daughters and a migrant who used to live in the United Kingdom (UK). Due to the global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, she returned to Bangladesh on 16 March 2020 along with her two daughters. Since then she and her daughters were stranded here and could not manage to migrate to the UK again as there were no flights.
During this time in Bangladesh, Parvin and her daughters struggled with depression, especially during the time they spent in quarantine notably with the loneliness which was difficult for the children. The health risk due to COVID-19 also caused much stress to Parvin and her family. Uncertainty of resuming flights made her more anxious.
One of the field officers of the Prottasha project in Sylhet recognized her needs and connected to the Reintegration Service Centre (RSC) counselling service. After the initial discussion over the phone, a counsellor from Sylhet RSC started providing Parvin Sultana with tele-counselling services from 15 April 2020. Initially, it took time for Ms. Parvin to trust the counselor. Realizing her situation and hesitation, the counsellor empathically assured her of the confidentiality and privacy of the services and the safety of the phone call. Gradually, Parvin Sultana started trusting the counselor and started talking about the struggle she was going through. The counsellor soon diagnosed that she was emotionally unstable.
While attending the tele-counselling sessions, Parvin continuously asked for updates on global and national trends of the pandemic and possible dates when flights might resume. Learning about the increased risk among elderly people with health complexities, she was also worried for her father who is diabetic.
To get her out of all this worrisome situation, the counselor suggested some strategies on worry management, along with some indoor games, and fun activities for her, and her daughters. The counselor kept on inspiring and motivating her to be strong, taught her the techniques for managing stress, anxiety, and depression. Parvin also learned how to prevent negative thoughts thanks to a short manual on COVID-19 emergency tele-counselling support provided by the project. She was encouraged to share this new information and messages with other family members, relatives and community.
After completing the counselling sessions, Ms. Sultana was very pleased and expressed her appreciation for the services provided in a professional and non-judgmental way. She was very thankful to the counsellor and to the Prottasha project which is implemented by IOM in partnership with BRAC and funded by the European Union (EU). The Government of Bangladesh leads the project.
Married at the age of 17, Ms. Sultana was abused by her husband and his family physically, mentally, and verbally. When her husband married another woman without her consent, she decided to divorce him. Following the decision, Parvin started living at her sister’s house and worked hard to feed her two daughters. But, without adequate educational qualifications, it was difficult for her to earn enough to provide for her family comfortably. She found herself in a severe struggle and financial crisis. Later, she decided to migrate to the UK and started living there with her daughters.