Out of the mind, out in the streets

I was at the steps of the large temple at Basantapur having a cup of tea where I drink tea mostly in the evenings whenever I am out alone or with friends. Just as I was sipping the tea alone and looking around, I saw the man was being interrogated by the group of people around him in the threatening manner. Soon one of them started beating him and took his backpack away. I contained useless things, I was thinking why was they treating so inhumanely. They were asking him something and he was arguing with them and even getting physically aggressive but as he was alone he seemed weak and helpless. I thought it was a case of pick pocketing and tried to ignore it but the scene continued and by then a large of people had gathered around. I got curious and tried to stop a man who was trying to beat him. I asked what was happening. He ignored my question and continued to verbally assault him. As I observed that man who was in his late 20s, he seemed mentally disordered and yes, he was. I saw a young guy near him giving him some pills to take with a jug of water. He was refusing to take it but had taken pills under pressure. It happened that he had run away from the room he was being kept in at Kathmandu. He had been taken to Mental Hospital at Patan several times from where he had escaped many times. He was still under medication. He was completely out of his mind. After sometime the group of people (relatives) took him away to their room. People dispersed and went their ways. I talked with didi (elderly woman) who sold the tea and a man who was still there, they said he was a fine man who worked as a tourist guide and was very successful in his job. In fact, he had earned a lot of money with which he had built a house in his village but suddenly, he lost his mind and ever since he has been running away from home. He has gone crazy since a year and his family is trying to treat him but finding it very difficult. I asked if there had been any incident which could have led to the madness, he said it was a case of a girl. Before I could ask more about it, he went away being summoned by his wife. The didi got serious and was sharing her thoughts. She said what to do with money in this life. Look he has gone mad now, what is the use of money and all his wealth now. He does not have peace, he has gone mad!

There are many people abandoned in the streets of Kathmandu who are mentally disordered and have no support from family or the government. Such people who are living with mental health problems are in great risk of physical assault and discrimination. Mental health problems are highly stigmatized and seen as a curse resulting due to the sins committed in the past or current lives. Some mentally disordered persons are aggressive and highly dangerous in public while the majority of them are not very aggressive and dangerous in real sense. The public is very afraid of these people so, nobody goes to help them. The only mental hospital in Nepal is ill-equipped and under staffed to provide adequate services and proper treatment to mental health patients coming from all over the country. The government of Nepal needs to pay attention to mental health situation in our country. The number of people with mental health problems has increased considerably because of the armed conflict for over a decade and growing unmanaged urbanization.

There are many such cases like the one I have discussed above which are very difficult to handle. Many such cases are never public knowledge because of the perceived stigma towards such problems.

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