Saturday, October 10, 2020

Urgent action needed to address growing mental health issue in Nepal

 On World Mental Health Day, the United Nations in Nepal joins everyone, including the government and development partners, civil society, communities and families, to urgently strengthen actions to mitigate the deteriorating mental health situation among the Nepali population.

As Nepal continues to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, suicides among adolescent girls, already an issue of concern, have increased by almost 40 per cent during the first four months of nationwide lockdown compared to the previous year, according to the Nepal Police. The data suggests that there are other gender related issues aggravating the mental health of adolescent girls. It highlights the urgency required for everyone to act before girls and boys in Nepal turn their helplessness into self-harm, read a press note issued by the UN.

There have been a number of initiatives taken by the Health Ministry and the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens in recent years. The UN also welcomes the recent message from Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who expressed concerns regarding the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on mental health and called for mass awareness on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing for the general public, the press note reads, adding that this urgent call for action comes at time where there are multiple levels of needs, from awareness raising to strategic and rapid investments in specialised and non-specialised mental health care. “According to the July 2020 findings of UNICEF Child and Family Tracker household survey, some 49 per cent of families reported an increase in stress levels since the lockdown, mainly related to concerns about their capacity to support their children.”

At the same time, the mental health of the most vulnerable in the population is especially of concern as they are particularly susceptible to uncertainty, isolation and stress.

The UN stands by the government and all relevant stakeholders as concerted efforts are made to increase the investment in mental health promotion, prevention of disorders, treatment and rehabilitation at the federal, provincial and local levels, so that mental health and psychosocial services become easily available and accessible for all. Building a cohesive, thriving post-Covid 19 Nepal requires all of us, policy makers, development partners, health professionals and families to make stronger commitments and investments into the well-being of our communities, the press note reads. “We must also jointly address the stigma around mental health and seeking mental health services.”

A nationwide survey conducted by the Nepal Health Research Council in 2019 highlighted that 10 per cent of adult participants had a mental illness during their lifetime. These mental health conditions frequently first appear during adolescence but often also go unrecognised and untreated with subsequent effects on adult mental health, social functioning and parenting.

According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report published in 2017, most children with mental health conditions suffer without any professional help. They impact learning outcomes and the quality of social interactions, all central to healthy societal growth.

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