Combatting psychosocial issues

[This is a guest post by Mr. Ishwar Rauniyar from DanChurchAid, Purnima’s partner]

The day, when the world was celebrating the World Mental Health Day 2020, psychosocial counseller Ram Krishna Lamsal, was busy helping the people in the quarantine centres; get rid of the stresses and anxiety, they were going through.

A group of people, those staying in Amrawati Quarantine centre in Jwalamukhi Rural Municipality, Dhading district were following his command, ‘Imagine, the positive energy coming into your body with every breath you take and imagine the breath going out every moment is taking away your anxiety and stress from your mind’.

“Most of the people have lost their jobs, some are away from their homes; they have traveled days to reach to their home, but haven’t been able to go to their houses and meet their loved ones, that has created tensions and stresses among the people,” Lamsal adds, “We are trying to make them feel good, and let them realise that this is not the end of the world and good things are still waiting for them.”

This is not just giving them relief from the tensions they have been thinking about, also facilitating them to think positive after they are back home.

“We are asking them to engage themselves in whatever skills they have, either it is farming or anything, so that their mind is occupied, and negative thinking do not come,” Lamsal added.

“I have shared my phone number and have asked them to call me anytime they need assistance, 24hrs a day.” Lamsal shared that he also received a couple of calls from those who had gone home after staying in quarantine. “They especially asked me about the ways to get rid of the negative thoughts,” he says.

Prakash Gaire, 18, from Jwalamukhi Dhading, believes that things have changed when he came to this quarantine center.

“I was worried about my future and still don’t know what will happen next, but the sessions here at the quarantine centre have helped me to release most of my tensions,” he says, “The facility of WIFI and TV has also helped me to engage myself in different good things, watching videos on YouTube and watching comedy movies. I have realised that hard times will pass and things will get normal very soon.”

Gaire went to Delhi, India, looking for job some 11 months ago. His life was going normal with a good job at a property dealers’ office; but later COVID-19 happened and his office was closed. He became jobless.

“I had a tough time after that with no job and money; was in a situation of spending nights in the street. However, I managed to come back home,” he says. “I don’t want to go back, if I find job here.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on the mental health of people, triggering new issues while exacerbating existing ones. Preventative measures to contain the coronavirus are having a slow but steady impact on mental health. People are restless, sad, fearful, anxious, and worried for themselves and their families, according to a study conducted by TPO Nepal, a non-governmental organization working on mental health.

A recent study conducted by DCA through its partners in Sudurpaschim Province’s Kanchanpur, Kailali, Doti and Achham Districts; with 1572 migrant returnees on the “Impact of COVID-19 on Migrant Workers” shows that 98.7% of migrant’s returnee have lost their household livelihood due to COVID-19; and mostly, 84.1% adult female member and 73.4% adult male members of the family is most stressed in the current situation.

Nepal Police report shows that there has been tremendous increase in the suicide case, following the COVID-19 crisis. At least 20 people are killing themselves on a daily basis, which is almost double than the last year.

Given the situation, DCA through its local partner Action Nepal in Dhading district is providing psychosocial counselling support in quarantine centres at seven R/Municipalities of Dhading district and a radio show Sajhedari is inviting psychosocial experts to talk on several aspects of the psychosocial problems during the crisis and also deals with individual problems through the radio show.

The intervention is part of the UK aid funded Purnima Programme, managed by Mott MacDonald.