By Feenzu Sherpa

The coronavirus pandemic has shown mercy upon no one as most people suffer from financial loss, social stigma, health crisis, etc. Similarly, this pandemic have also brought its own consequences among those suffering from mental health problems.

To begin with, for those who consider mental health as ‘just a thought’ or ‘crazy thing’, mental health is way more than that. Mental health problems includes depression, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), among others.

Another thing about mental health is that it cannot be seen, especially when neglected, which is the reason why most people believe that mental illness doesn’t exist and for the same reason it is hard to be treated as well.

With a complete or partial lockdown placed by Nepal government since mid-March in a bid to curb coronavirus infection, the mental health of people has worsened.

Especially, the adult male who are ‘obligated’ to solely look after their family financially in this patriarch society are facing two battles amid the pandemic – financial and mental.

With almost all the businesses affected and many rendered jobless, bread-winners of several families have suffered massively, the impacts of which can be felt by other family members too. The criteria set by us for men to be ‘macho’ or ‘not to be cry-baby’ makes it harder for men to open up.

A National Mental Health Survey by Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC) carried among more than 15,000 shows that among the adults with mental health disorders, 6.5 per cent visit psychiatrists while 11.7 per cent felt embarrassed or ashamed, 10.5 per cent feared to be seen as ‘crazy’ and 9.7 per cent were afraid if people would even take them seriously.

The report clearly shows that social-stigma has halted people to check-up on their mental health condition while some are even hesitant to be open up about their true feelings.

Being stuck at home, where some are even physically or mentally abused, those suffering from mental illness felt like prisoners. The suicide rate also went high during lockdown.

According to the data provided by Nepal Police to Aawaaj News, 3,425 people have committed suicide in Nepal since mid-March to mid-August.

Similarly, those with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), this coronavirus pandemic is a long journey. With excessive fears about possible repercussions to the virus, people with OCD feel compelled to repeatedly perform certain behaviors, such as compulsive cleaning.

31-years-old Aasha (name changed) from Sano Bharyang is an example of OCD who was taken to the Lalitpur-based Nepal Mental Hospital after she started showing unusual behaviours such as constantly washing her and her children’s hands, sometimes even 60 times, and locking the children inside their room due to fear of coronavirus transmission.

Mita Rana, a clinical psychologist at Teaching Hospital said, “During this pandemic, anxiety disorder, phobia, obsessive compulsive tendencies and depressive thoughts are more likely to be triggered in mentally-ill people and aggravate their condition.”

What can be done?

Often, we talk about problems rather than trying to find a solution. We might not be able to completely solve the mental illness of a person but we can play a role while they fight this battle.

The most important thing that a person related to someone who is undergoing mental illness is – to listen. The act of listening without being judgmental can lead to opening up about their problem and feelings.

Organizations such as World Health Organization and United Nations health agency have urged people to seek information only from trusted sources and minimize reading news that triggers feelings of anxiety or distress.

The person who is going through mental anxiety or showing such symptoms can find a distraction from other things that suits your own personal interest. Also, one can find a way to contact and talk to someone who they think will hear them out.

Call the given numbers in case of emergency:

Patan Hospital Helpline: 9813476123

TUTH Hotline: 9840021600

Transcultural Psychosocial-Nepal Hotline: 16600102005

Chaitanya Mental Health Helpline: 01-4370324