Thursday, January 6, 2011

Nepal reports that one-third of its citizens have a mental illness

From Spero News:

According to the government of Nepal, in 2010 more than 6,000,000 people, about one-third of the population, suffered from mental illness, but despite the emergency the problem has been neglected.

Ram Lal Shrestha, director of the local NGO “Centre for Mental Health and Counselling-Nepal” (CMC), which is dedicated to providing health care to people with mental disorders, said recently that the Himalayan country did not yet have a health system suitable for handling the psychiatric disorders.

More than 15 years have passed since 1996 when the government issued the first policy on mental health, but so far very little of it has been implemented. There are over 4,000 health centers and 75 government-run hospital districts across Nepal, but there is no specific unit for this issue other than Patan Hospital in Kathmandu, which offers only outpatient care.

A WHO statistic from 2006 reported that in all of Nepal there are 32 psychiatrists, six psychologists and 16 non-specialist doctors working in the centres or in Patan Hospital, but no therapists. Compared to four years ago the situation has not changed and the main problem, say Government experts, remains the lack of funds.

Fewer than 1% of the health budget was made available in 2010 for this type of pathology. Most of the money was used for health workers' salaries, administrative costs and hospital logistics but not for the care and treatment of patients. Only a small number of persons receive free medical benefits. Many families who live outside the capital are unable to reach India for care and sustain very high costs to buy drugs. In less than 10 months, in 2010, the Nepalese Police registered a total of 7,300 suicides across the country. More than half were women.