Mental illness: Awareness helps


One needs to be physically, socially and mentally healthy to live a healthy life. However, mental health is not taken as seriously as physical health in our country. There is still stigmatisation regarding mental health. News and photos of people and children being tied up and kept at home make the rounds now and again. These people suffer from mental illness, but are not given proper care and help but are instead kept hidden as if they are an embarrassment to the family. But there’s a likely shift in the perspective towards mental illness(es) in society.

“People have started becoming aware about mental health and mental health problems. Imparting education has been a great help in bringing mental health patients for treatment,” informs Dr Ritesh Thapa, MBBS, MD, Director and Consultant Neuropsychiatrist at Rhythm Neuropsychiatry Hospital and Research Centre, Ekantakuna.

“Functions such as thinking, decision making, appropriate behaviour, ability to hear, controlling emotions, judgements et cetera come under mental functions. And whenever there is an abnormality in any of these areas, and if daily activities of a person get hampered because of the change sin such mental functions, know that this is mental illness,” clarifies Dr Thapa.

Causes of mental illness

There are various causes of mental illness. Biological, social and psychological causes play an important role in mental health disorders. Personal problems, genetic problems, childhood trauma are also some of the causes of mental illness. Be it the financial burden or a failure, one gets stressed and suffers from mental health problems. Stroke and diabetes also are also some of the causes for mental illness. Political instability is another cause for mental illness, as per the doctor. War and disasters have a large impact on mental health.

Intake of drugs during pregnancy and trauma during delivery are also some of the causes for mental illness. Hormonal changes in females are also one of the causes for mental illness.

Scenario in Nepal

As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), in low-and middle-income countries, between 76 per cent and 85 per cent of people with mental disorders receive no treatment for their disorder. In high-income countries, between 35 per cent and 50 per cent of people with mental disorders are in the same situation.

Despite people suffering from mental illness in and around the country, there is no accurate data about the total number of such patients here. A thorough study about mental health and patients has not been done in the country, as per the doctor. “There are around 13-14 patients visiting the hospital daily in our OPD,” informs Dr Thapa.

But he observes a change lately regarding mental health in people. “Patients have started coming to us without hesitation. Parents visit hospitals with their children when their child doesn’t perform well in his/her academics, or feels low, becomes angry, refuses to go to school or shows any such behaviour. It is because people are quite concerned about mental health nowadays. Young people suffer from mental illness due to conflicts at home, relations, et cetera and want proper counselling.

This is also why they have been visiting hospitals lately,” elaborates Dr Thapa.

Awareness helps

The different rallies, awareness programmes about mental health, people openly talking about mental health, celebration of the World Mental Health Day, World Suicide Prevention Day and similar other mental health awareness programmes have been able to raise awareness about mental health problems in the country, opines the doctor.

“The government has also been providing trainings at the grassroots level. It has been a great help in identification of mental health problems and patients in the country. If health workers in health centres aren’t able to treat them, then they refer the patients to senior doctors which in turn helps the patient get the needed treatment and help live his/her life happily,” informs Dr Thapa.

Mental health programmes in schools, radio programmes on mental health, several non-governmental organisations working for people with mental illnesses have also been a great help in the country — both to identify and treat the cases all around the country, as per the doctor.

Several mental illnesses can be dealt with proper counselling, first aid, talking with patients and through relaxation therapies. “To help patients cope with problems and live a life of dignity, the family and society must be helpful and cooperative,” advises the doctor.

People might be into substance abuse and alcoholism because of mental illness. Without understanding the root cause for such addictions, they are sent to rehabilitation centres. However, such patients should be counselled properly rather than just being taken to rehabilitation centres, suggests Dr Thapa.