Kathmandu: Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr Roshan Pokhrel, has said that mental health is now a priority for the government of Nepal.
Addressing the second annual general meeting of Nepal Institute of Mental Health (NIOMH), Dr Pokharel, who is himself a senior psychiatrist, said that mental health is the need of the time. “We may not have been able to allocate enough resources for the sector, but the government is committed to expanding mental health services across the country,” he said.
He lauded the role of NIOMH and other organizations working in the mental health sector in providing counseling and other services to the needy.
“In the aftermath of Covid-19, over 20 people are dying of suicide every day in Nepal which highlights the need of urgent intervention in this sector,” said Dr Pokhrel, calling upon the non-government sector to collaborate with the government.
The focal point for mental health at the Ministry of Health, Dr Phanindra Baral, said that only 25 percent of the population are going to health institutions in Nepal seeking mental health services as compared to 90 percent seeking treatment and counseling for non-communicable diseases. “Mental health is a cross-cutting issue and we need the involvement of various ministries and stakeholders,” he added.
The Executive Director of NIOMH, Dr Shreedhar Paudel, said that out of nearly 30 million people in Nepal, it is estimated that nearly six million people will have some sort of mental health problems in their lifetime. “Only 10 percent of the people who need mental health care get it,’” he added. The President of NIOMH, Dr Sanjay Yadav, outlined the activities of the organization in Nepal. He described the comprehensive approach of NIOMH to address the mental health needs of Nepal.
Vice President of Nepal Association of Clinical Psychologists (NACP), Dr Narmada Devkota, said that there is a need for human resources mapping of people working in the mental health sector. “It is estimated that there are around 700 mental health counselors in Nepal including 36 clinical psychologists. Most of them are based in Kathmandu,” she added.
Dr Arun Kunwar, head of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit of Kanti Children’s Hospital said that out of 40 psychologists in Nepal, 10 are working at the Kanti Children’s Hospital alone. “Forty percent of the total population of Nepal are children and we must address their mental health problems,” said Dr Kunwar adding, “The Ministry of Health is quite positive now.”
Charimaya Tamang, President of Shakti Samuha, Susheela KC, Secretary, Manav Sewa Ashram, Dr Ravi Shakya, Psychiatrists’ Association of Nepal’s Vice President, Advocate Shital Subedi, Dr Bigya Shah of Patan Academy of Health Sciences and Dr Jagan Subedi from NIOMH also spoke at the conference.
Ms Binita Adhikari, Executive Director of the Health Foundation Nepal, moderated a discussion session. The opening session was followed by the second Annual General Meeting of the NIOMH.