2.2m Nepalis suffer from mental health disorder
As Nepal carries out its first National Mental Health Survey, some 2.2 million Nepalis, aged between 16 – 40 years, are estimated to suffer from mental health issues and the cases are rising among children, psychiatrists have warned.
Different studies have also shown that mental health plagues people of every age, affects one out of five youths globally and is directly linked to youth suicide in the 15-29 age group.
“A child can suffer immense stress due to small reasons like getting scolded or bullied in school, disputes between parents and even day-to-day pressure like forcing for a haircut,” said Dr Arjun Raj Kunwar, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Kanti Children’s Hospital. “Since children cannot express their mental problems, it remains unidentified and affects them more as they grow older.”
It is believed that mental health issues start before 14 years of age and 75 percent of youth identify the problems before they reach 24 years. But experts have pointed out that the country is not equipped to cater to the vulnerable population.
“There are only 0.58 beds per 100,000 population in Nepal to avail mental health services while hospitals providing mental health services are only available in urban areas,” said Dr Basudev Karki, psychiatrist at Mental Hospital in Patan.
Nepal has only one OPD service in Kanti Children’s Hospital and only two child psychiatrists to cater to children.
“In a country where only few have access to health services, the awareness level about mental health issues is rare. Similarly, lack of mental health centre for children is another challenge,” said Dr Kunwar.
Mental health issues signify disorders that affect mood, thinking and behaviour of an individual due to depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and even eating disorders and addictive behaviours.
Mental health problem among children and youth remains a neglected sector globally.
Only 4 percent of the global health budget is allocated for mental illness in youth and children.
For the fiscal year 2018/19, Nepal government has allocated 4.29 percent of its total budget for health and population, but according to the State Minister for Health and Population Dr Surendra Kumar Yadav, the budget is not enough to offer basic health services, let alone mental health.