Mental Health Advocacy Workshop

A workshop on “Identifying Major Challenges in Mental Health Services and Advocacy in Nepal” was jointly organized by Nepal Mental Health Foundation  (NMHF) with the support of Ministry of Health and Population (MoPH) on June 29, 2011, Tuesday at National Health Training Centre, Teku, Kathmandu.

The main speakers in the program included Dr. Babu Ram Marasaini, Health Sector Reform Unit (MoPH)- Mental Health Policy and Program; Dr. Lalita Joshi, chairperson, Down’s Syndrome Association of Nepal; Bhupendra Thapa and Badri Bahadur Khadgi, Health communication, (MoPH). The program was moderated by Jagannath Lamichhane, President, NHMF. Over 30 participants from different organizations and backgrounds took part in the workshop. I represented Central Department of Psychology, Tribhuvan University. Participants shared their views and opinions regarding the challenges Nepal is facing in the area of mental health.

Though the national mental health policy was drafted in 1996, it yet to be operational. Dr. Marasaini said he was one of the key persons who has been involved in drafting of mental health policy but he did not give much detailed and clear information on how was he involved and the current status of the progress on the policy. He gave an example of Safe Motherhood Policy which was drafted in 1989 but was operational only since 1996. He said how there was upsurge of activism in the area of Safe Motherhood and how Dr. Arju Deuba (she has PhD in organizational psychology from India) won award for her work. Dr. Marasaini might have wanted to tell us not to lose hope.

Bhupendra Thapa made an interesting remark by saying how the concept of ‘networking’ has changed into ‘not-working’ in many cases of Nepal. He said how poor attitude people have that they are always looking for external support and they tend to work as long as they are being pushed by external agencies. As soon as they withdraw their support, the networking programs collapse.

I took the opportunity in the workshop to inform the participants about PSYCHOLOGY NETWORK and how it has been active based upon the principle that communication is a heart in the development of any area (academic/applied). Over the years, I have realized that it is not the problem of MEDIUM that we are facing but problem has got to do with our ATTITUDE. By putting it straightaway in this manner, it might sound rude and politically incorrect but I would like to admit that we still lack the attitude of information sharing. This is the self-criticism here. Most of the times, we are happy to receive the information that might be beneficial or we are willing to share the information that is directly related or rewarding for us but not many of us have time to think “How can I contribute to it and we can build upon it?” So, my emphasis is that it needs to be a two-way communication, all of us should be continuously willing to communicate, contribute and interact. It might not be beneficial for us immediately but its impact on the future will be profound and far reaching.

The major challenges that were discussed in the workshop were:

  • Stigma related to Mental problems and lack of awareness
  • Limited capacity to address to demands for mental health services
  • Lack of research and epidemiological studies (to find out prevalence and incidence rates  of various psychological problems)
  • Lack of information dissemination (ineffective networking)
  • Lack of professional organizations (there is not a single active professional body of Nepalese Psychologists)

Amidst the voices of complaints, one of the participants, Priya Agrawal, psychologist from Metro Clinic, drew attention of participants and guests to appreciate what we already have and what is working rather than merely complaining what we do not have and what we have not been able to accomplish. I really appreciate her attitude and comment. Another participant highlighted the fact that there is a lack of unity among professionals in this area. She put it directly that the lack of progress and increasing challenges in the present context has to do with lack of unity and cooperation. Like it often happens, she said, “Everyone will raise their voices in the workshop but what is the outcome of this, as soon as this is over, everyone goes home and forgets about it.”

This kind of workshop definitely puts some pressure on the concerned stakeholders. It will exert some motivation for working on the National Mental Health Policy that is much needed to address major challenges in mental health area in Nepal.




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