Council plans mental health survey in Nepal

- NAYAK PAUDEL, Kathmandu

Nov 22, 2018-

The Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC) is preparing to launch the National Mental Health Survey for the first time in Nepal.

According to the council, they will be following the ‘Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) Adult and MINI-Kid version 7.0.2’ tool created by Dr David Vincent Sheehan, a famous physiatrist and a professor emeritus at the University of South Florida College of Medicine.

“Dr Sheehan’s health tool has been used in many countries across the world as it is internationally validated for assessing mental disorders,” Executive Chairman of NHRC Dr Anjani Kumar Jha told the Post. “The survey is estimated to cost around Rs40 million, but we are thankful to Dr Sheehan who provided the tool worth Rs20 million for free.”

A couple of months ago, the council had conducted a pilot survey among 1,674 people (1,371 adults and 276 adolescents) in Dhanusha, Bhaktapur and Dolakha districts to check the tool’s feasibility.

The data of the pilot survey showed that 11.2 percent of adolescents (13-17 years) and 13.2 percent of adults (18 years and above) were suffering with mental illness. “That study also proved the tool is effective enough to conduct a nationwide survey,” said Sushma Dahal, a research officer at the council.

“We have prepared over 25 questions related to mental disorders for adolescents and 17 for the adults. Those volunteers, who have been trained by Dr Sheehan, are training others for the survey which kicks off in January,” said Dahal.

According to Dahal, the survey will cover around 20,000 people in all 77 districts. The first phase of the research starts from Province 1, 2 and 3.

As the government has neglected mental health sector by allocating a minimal budget, result of the survey is likely to make the government aware about the consequences of its negligence.

Speaking to the Post Dr Sheehan said, “Mental health disorder can affect anyone including the productive population, which directly affects the country’s economy. Investment in mental health is an economic benefit for the nation and a great relief for public.”

An estimated 2.2 million people suffer from mental health disorders in Nepal. The country has only 0.58 beds per 100,000 to serve people with mental disorders in various hospitals, most are in urban areas.

Nepal has recently emerged from the decade long Maoist insurgency and the earthquake in 2015. This double whammy has affected many people with mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

World Health Organisation (WHO) says depressive disorders are already the fourth leading cause of the global disease burden and are expected to rank second by 2020, behind ischemic heart disease.

“Mental disorders are treatable, but a country needs proper infrastructure, manpower and should be aware about the reasons causing it. The survey, which is the first of its kind in Nepal, will facilitate the government to make proper plans and policies,” said Dr Sheehan, adding, a mental disorder patient in a family often affects other members due to which its early control is vital.

The survey also has questionnaire for people if they have any barriers to go for treatment regarding mental health issues and about the sector they prioritise for treatment.

WHO estimates two-third of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional.

Published: 22-11-2018 07:26

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