Understanding mental health

Women more vulnerable to mental illness because of family separation and migration


Physical, social and mental health are important aspects of one’s life. If any one of these aspects is affected, then a person cannot be called a healthy being. Compared to physical health, mental aspect of health is often neglected by people. “This is because of stigma associated with mental illness in the general population and even in health professionals,” informs Professor Padam Simkhada, Professor of International Public Health and Associate Dean (Global Engagement for the Faculty of Education, Health and Community) at Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool.

Mental health

The higher mental functions of brain such as emotional, thinking, judgement capacity et cetera should be intact to work as a normal human being. Minor mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety or insomnia are very common. But the understanding of mental health is completely wrong here in the country. “Mental illness is referred to as being mad and the person suffering from mental illness is referred to as an unfit for family and society because of the loss of control over self. Here people with mental illness are referred to as being possessed by the spirit or black magic. In addition, people (and family) with mental disorders suffer discrimination and they hesitate to come forward for treatment,” adds Prof Simkhada.

Mental health could be of any kind, from anxiety to stress. Depression too is a part of mental health. People suffering from various diseases are also prone to depression and anxiety. Every mental problem is understood as a bipolar disorder and schizophrenia here, as per Prof Simkhada. One suffering from mental illness can function properly if the family and society supports him/her. One can cope with the illness if there is support.

So as to highlight the issues and help people understand mental health issues, Prof Simkhada along with Professor Edwin van Teijlingen, Centre for Midwifery, Maternal and Perinatal Health, School of Health and Social Care at Bournemouth University, UK have been researching on Mental Health. “We have been doing researches on maternal health, reproductive and sexual health and general health among others. But as the researches have shown there is an increase in the suicidal rate in Nepali women, we are more focused on mental health,” adds Prof Simkhada.

What one must understand is that mental illnesses aren’t permanent. “When one’s relationship doesn’t go well, or someone is stressed because of jobs, there are chances for one to suffer from mental illness. When you are pregnant, your hormones changes, your status in the family changes, losing a job and a not good relationship lead to depression in people and this is quite common here in Nepal,” informs Prof Teijlingen.

Though there are cases of mental illnesses, these can be prevented if one pays a little attention.

Women more vulnerable 

Suicide can be prevented. Proper counselling can prevent anyone from committing suicide. The one who is committing suicide gives signs and symptoms. S/He goes to health workers with another disease. S/He shares with another about the problems. Stress is natural such as in exams, job stress. One can perform better when stressed. But what you must understand is that you should know how long you are stressed, as per Prof Teijlingen. “More than that you must realise that you are more stressed than at other times. If you can’t control the stress for more than two weeks at a time, then you must visit the doctor,” suggests Prof Teijlingen.


Physical exercises too are necessary. “Changing work and work pattern and social relations will help you, but it isn’t that easy,” informs Prof Teijlingen.

Giving time to children, changing anti-social behaviour, and stopping the use of drugs will lead to a healthy mental health.

Here in Nepal traditional and religious healers are the primary sources of treatment in the community. Mental health services are mostly institution-based and limited to a few hospitals located in big cities. Increase in the number of hospitals, trainings and raising awareness about mental health will help in bringing changes in the condition of mental health. Besides that implementation of strategies for promotion and prevention in mental health, strengthening information systems, evidence and research for mental health too are necessary for better mental health, as per Prof Simkhada.