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ApEx roundtable: Mental health, youth and the pandemic

ApEx roundtable: Mental health, youth and the pandemic

The salience of mental health for one’s overall health has only grown during the pandemic. The forced isolation during the pandemic made problems worse for those suffering from different mental health issues–and also produced countless first-time sufferers. Recent surveys suggest that as many as 60 percent of those aged 18-40 suffered from one or the other mental health problem during the pandemic. We as a country need to tackle this problem–and soon. ApEx recently organized a roundtable discussion on the topic, with the intent of ferreting out the most prevalent mental health issues among Nepalis and to understand what it could do to bring greater awareness and relief. Here are excerpts from the roundtable.   

Nishma Chaudhary, Cofounder, My Sirani

Nishma Choudhary

Since the start of the pandemic in particular, technology has contributed to many mental health problems. People are now spending a lot of time on their gadgets, lost in their own world. With excessive use of social media, many have even lost the ability to communicate properly in person. We need a positive social orientation on how we can make the best use of technology. For instance, technology has helped with online psychological counseling. In itself, technology is not good or bad. It is the people who make it so. 

Kapil Sharma, Counseling psychologist, Hudec Nepal

Kapil Sharma

Around a percent of the national health budget is currently allocated to mental health. But that is just one issue. We also need to speak out about the government’s role in different sectors for the betterment of people’s mental health. If the state can take a stand, there can be better awareness and education on mental health. Along with that, there is the need to normalize the conversation on mental health, and to avoid using sensitive words and be empathetic and accepting.

Bhawana Shrestha, Cofounder, My Emotions Matter

Bhawana Shrestha

Today, teenagers and young adults have multiple issues with their parents. The parents’ expectations are high. It is not uncommon for children to simply wilt under this pressure. We need to encourage and spread awareness among older generations to support their child’s mental and emotional health, their need for counseling, or any sort of support system they need to help them take care of themselves. 

Dr Rishav Koirala, Psychiatrist, Grande Hospital

Rishav Koirala

Depression, anxiety and stress are some of the most common problems I've noticed among the youth. The pandemic only made them worse. It tested people’s coping mechanisms and increased their sense of isolation. We need to educate ourselves on the importance of taking care of our mental health and reaching out to others when things are not going well. Along with psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors, we need more educators, advocates and enthusiasts who can spread the word. It is okay to talk and share about mental health problems, and to understand that every problem has a solution.

Shreeya Giri, Founder and Managing Director of Happy Minds

Shreeya Giri

The absence of assertive communication is a major cause of mental health problems. In many cases, the lockdown helped build a barrier between children and their parents. Children aren't able to share what they are going through with their parents. This is causing them to be very reserved. The stigmatization is still there, and the practice of seeking help is still not normalized in many families. We need to advocate for change in our roots first. It will be hard to have a healthy frame of mind unless we learn to assertively express our thoughts and feelings