Mental health matters and it matters more amid the pandemic: Nepal’s context

Photo: Pexels/ Ekrulila

As we all know, mental health affects psychological, physical, cognitive, and behavioural aspects of one’s life. It is all about how we think, act, experience, and develop as individuals.

According to the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which a person recognises his or her own talents, can cope with normal life pressures, can function productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to his or her culture.” When our physical state or fitness can deteriorate due to a variety of causes such as injury, death, or cancer, our mental health can deteriorate for a variety of reasons, leading to mental illness. Stress, social alienation, social deprivation, trauma, or bereavement are all possibilities.

In recent years, mental illness has become more prevalent both internationally and in our society in Nepal also. The number of people in need is growing exponentially, but the number of people who can be helped is not. The number of people in need exceptionally increases during difficult times of history such as the current Covid-19 pandemic. In an under-resourced country such as Nepal, the problem is further aggravated as the state and other stakeholders cannot pay adequate attention to the sector.

Since the number of persons suffering from psychiatric disorders and deaths as a result of them is increasingly growing, the government and the general public should begin to take mental wellbeing seriously.

Common issues

Anxiety, phobias, personality disorders, panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are examples of some common psychological issues. Anyone, from an infant to an adult, may be affected by a mental illness. Social and economic circumstances, stress, gender, race, and even biological factors may all be risk factors for mental health.

Nepal’s mental health policy was developed in 1996 and includes commitments such as ensuring the availability and accessibility of basic mental health facilities for all Nepali citizens, developing human capital in the field of mental health, upholding basic human rights of the mentally ill, and raising mental health consciousness. But, mental health services are also not being built or expanded to meet the demand, with mental health spending accounting for less than 1% of all health spending. At Nepal’s central mental health hospital, people are having difficulty seeking beds.

Problems during the pandemic

Different sources suggest there was a rise of around 25 per cent in suicide cases during the lockdown imposed to control the Covid-19 cases in the country. The reason, as we all know, was mental illness.

Our mental wellbeing is not anything to be afraid of or avoid; rather, it is something to be conquered. People all over the world are taking serious steps to treat and care for their mental health. Therapies, medication and self-help can help us overcome our illness and have good mental health.

During the lockdown/prohibitory order, keep a close eye on yourself and your family. If you suspect anything is wrong with you or anyone else around you, do not be afraid to get assistance or provide support to others. They will accompany you on your quest to solve the challenge you are experiencing. Mental wellbeing is not a laughing matter, and it should not be treated as such.

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Thapa Magar is a Kathmandu University School of Management student.

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