KATHMANDU, Oct 17: Urmila Pun, 23, a student at Kantipur Dental College wants a nose job. Not having a “perfect” nose has been distressing her from a young age.
Kripa Bhansakarya, 23, from Pokhara, has the responsibility of looking after her family.
Being the sole breadwinner of the family, she suffers from the burden of the economic pressure she has to face. Young as she is, she would like to enjoy her life rather than slogging at a 9 to 5 job.
Kushal Bhujel, 19, is a student of Bachelor´s in Business Administration at Nepal Tourism and Hotel Management College. He wants to go abroad for his studies. However, seeing the economic condition of his family, he hasn´t been able to talk to his parents. This, he says, makes him feel fed up.
Ichchha Thapa, 23, a recent graduate, is looking forward to getting another degree. The problem is that her family is forcing her to marry. With constant pressures that she’s under, she can neither concentrate on her studies nor in any other aspects of her life.
Roshan Hirachan, 25, wants to be a football player. He discontinued his studies to pursue his dream. His family, however, is against the idea and either wants him to study or run their hotel in Marpha. He’s torn between following his heart and not wanting to hurt his parents. He says this has resulted in increased anger at himself.
Sunny Magar, 24, studies at Griffith College in Ireland. He’s had his heart broken on more than a few occasions. All alone in a foreign land, it has depressed him. He wants to return home but his parents forbid it as they spent a lot of money for his education. He has taken up drinking.
These are just some of the mental pressures that the youth today are facing. Unfulfilled dreams, physical issues, loneliness, and weak financial status plague the youth and make them emotionally and mentally vulnerable.
The 2010/11 Nepal Adolescents and Youth Survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Population reports that “Higher percent of the females (12%) reported that they felt sad and depressed for several days than males (9%). Adolescents and Youth with an average number of 13 days were in any depressed or malpsychological state (feeeling sad, losing of interest, not interested to meet anyone and feeling angry for days).
Mental health problems have a social stigma attached to them. It’s also taken as a component of general health when it comes to treating it.
“Mental health problem isn’t just a clinical problem,” states Aatma Ram Pandey, Joint Secretary at the National Planning Commission (NPC), Government of Nepal.
“It’s also a social issue. Young people are very susceptible to depressions as they are easily frustrated. The political situation, the lack of employment or even their failure to do small things depress them,” he continues.
Supporting this view is Jagannath Lamichhane, mental health activist and Chairman of Nepal Mental Health Foundation. He says, “The government needs to address the increasing seriousness of this problem.”
According to him, there are no age- or gender-specific data to determine and separate the mental health problems of the youth. Yet, through media reports and exchanging information with doctors, he concludes that young people are mostly suffering from unemployment problems. Thus, they migrate to the Gulf countries for work which brings a host of problems for them.
He adds, “Their depression is related to the changing social scenario and economic situation they face in the country they work in. Most of the times, they find that the salary isn’t what they had expected, and since they have loans to pay back home, they are forced to stay.
“The suicide rate among such young people is also increasing at a rapid rate. There are about 600 to 700 cases of migrant workers´ deaths by suicide every year,” he adds.
The right to be mentally healthy is a very important issue that needs to be addressed by the government. People with mental disorders are mostly neglected, and there’s no social rehabilitation package for them.
The signs of mental disturbance start with a person not feeling like engaging with his existing surroundings. Then he isolates himself with his natural functioning weakened, often facing insomnia and having suicidal thoughts. Some depressed individuals acquire drug dependency.
But what the individuals need to understand is, says Lamichhane, that “Depression can be a momentary thing. Recovery is possible.”
Nafisa Shafique, UNICEF´s HIV/AIDS chief, also confirms: “76% of the youth suffer from anxiety while 44% are overwhelmed with hopelessness. There’s stigma attached to the mentally disturbed. As a way of dealing with the mental pressures and frustrations, many youth resort to drug abuse.”
Parents need to be aware of the state of their children´s mental health and so must schools and teachers. A healthy stage-wise development of mental health is very important, and every school should have a counselor to assist in that development.
Having this reality under consideration, Joint Secretary Pandey says, “At present, we have only one old policy, that of 1988. So the NPC has prepared a list of suggestions at a macro level which has been forwarded to the Ministry of Health and Population.”
As per the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Burden of Disease Study, it’s estimated that “mental and addictive disorders are among the most burdensome in the world, and the burden will increase over the next decades.”
Therefore, policies addressing mental health should be prioritized by the government. Depression and other problems related to mental health are as fatal as other illnesses.