Social stigma, untimely treatment, lack of national-level data on mental health and changing lifestyle have been major challenges in lessening the burden of mental health problems.
Lack of understanding about mental illnesses among people has resulted in increasing cases of suicide in the country, say doctors.
According to Nepal Police, 5,317 people committed suicide in the fiscal 2017-18. The number was 5,124 in fiscal 2016-17, whereas 4,680 people killed themselves in fiscal 2015-16. The number was 4,332 in fiscal 2014-15.
“There has been rise in the number of suicide cases. People still hesitate to speak openly about mental illness. They do not even realise that suicidal thoughts are related to psychological problems. Suicidal instinct is not taken as a psychological problem here. Since they do not seek help for mental problems, people suffering from depression develop suicidal tendency,” said Sagun Ballav Pant, assistant professor at Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Tribhuvan University, Teaching Hospital.
Pressure for good performance, family problems and lack of emotional support and care are some of the reasons for suicide among adolescents as well as adults.
Glorification of suicide is another cause. However, there are no educational programmes on suicide or any kind of mental illness, added Pant.
Unfulfilled demands, high ambitions and stress are other causes of suicides, according to Ritesh Thapa, Consultant Psychiatrist at Rhythm Neuro Psychiatry Hospital and Research Centre.
High parental expectation and attention seeking behaviour of adolescents are also responsible for suicide. There is lack of understanding in people about what leads to suicide. We need to understand that every person is vulnerable to suicide. They do not know where and when to seek help. People do not open up due to lack of trust, according to Pant.
He advised parents to notice behavioral changes in their children to find out whether they are depressed or not. He asked them to check for cut marks on the body of a depressed person and seek help from an expert immediately.
It is important to start counselling programmes at school and parents need to take good care of their children. Most importantly stigmatising mental health problems should be stopped, according to Thapa.
Despite rising number of suicide cases there is no record of how many people are suffering from mental health problems in the country. Though Nepal Police keeps data of suicide cases along with the methods used for committing suicide, it does not talk about the reasons behind the suicide.
Basudev Karki, consultant psychiatrist at Department of Health Services accepts that the government hasn’t been able to keep records of people suffering from mental illnesses. “The government is currently conducting a national survey on mental health,” he said.
There are many organisations that conduct researches on mental health. However, the validity of the data, methods employed while carrying out the research and the sample size and collection methods during the research should be taken into account.