With limited resources and restrictive working environment, we had to choose what stories to focus on during the health crisis. After a consultation, we arrived upon the list below:

  1. Daily updates pertaining to the health crisis at hand (national and global),
  2. A realistic situation of the health workers front lining the war against COVID-19,
  3. Social issues and mental health pertaining to the crisis.

I was assigned the task of covering the effect of the lockdown on mental health. As usual, I am last.

Over the past week, articles about plight of health workers, GBV, and daily updates have been posted – but not a single article on mental health. Why?

  1. Because I am lazy,
  2. Lack of concrete data,
  3. People aren’t willing to talk.

Disclaimer: Point no. 2 and 3 were faced by our editor covering GBV too – till date we are awaiting a report from Nepal Police regarding statistics of the rise in GBV since the lockdown.

Nevertheless, and thankfully, the research somehow led me to Bharat from Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) Nepal. Boy, am I glad I got to talk to him.

I first called the office’s hotline 1660 010 2005, after a brief conversation, the lady on the phone told me she was going to transfer me to Bharat. Bharat, a soft-spoken person answers the call – like me, he too is working from home. He isn’t expecting the call, so is a little hesitant initially.

He informs me that there are eight people like him answering calls daily – talking to people about their problems. They have recently increased their hotline hours – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. When asked about the types of calls he receives, he informs me the highest number of calls at the moment are pertaining to the impact of the lockdown.

“Many are anxious about its how long the lockdown is going to go for, and what is going to happen to them, or the world? A few are also worried about how they are going to cope from this lockdown financially. A few also talk to him about issues pertaining to gender based violence.”

He also tells me he has gotten calls from as far as Pathari of Morang District. “Others mostly are from Kathmandu, and surrounding areas”, he tells me.

When asked how he copes with listening to the troubles and woes of other people all day, he tells me that they have a group where he and other counselors share their emotions and thoughts.  He also practices relaxation therapy and other physical exercises.

He explains me a little bit about TPO. TPO is one of Nepal’s leading psychosocial organisation. It was established in 2005 with the aim of promoting psychosocial well-being and mental health of children and families in conflict affected and other vulnerable communities.

TPO works in four areas:

  1. Mental Health Research
  2. Advocacy and Justice in areas of social issues including GBV.
  3. Clerical Services such as counseling, psychiatric consultations, psychosocial assessment, etc.
  4. Capacity Building Training.

“However, we haven’t been able to do that recently due to the lockdown,” he adds.

He then asks a few things about me – addresses the stress I have too.

“You must be tired and stressed too?” he asks me.

“A little bit,” I tell him (refer to point number 3 from the first list).

Nevertheless, he continues talking, and tactfully changes the topic in hand from stress to what other interests I have, and what I would like to do when this health crisis is over. An estimated five minutes later, I get what he is doing. I go with the flow, talk to him about a few things, and actually later in the evening I realise the phone call did help.

Concluding the lovely chat, I ask him how can the media and public help others suffering from other mental health related issues; he gives me a few pointers which align with tips from other mental health bodies:

  1. Talk about mental health within social circles.
  2. To not consume too much news.
  3. Form support systems – to create a positive environment for others to talk about their issues.
  4. Healthy habits such as eating on time, exercise at home, a few physical activities a day to keep one occupied.
  5. Be kind to yourself.
  6. Lastly, and more importantly, get professional help if you feel the need.

Are you feeling stressed or anxious? You can talk to someone from TPO too. Dial their hotline 1660 010 2005 (toll free for NTC users) between 8 am to 6 pm.