Kathmandu, Sept. 11: UNICEF has urged the government and other stakeholders to ensure the mental health becomes part of mainstream health care services in Nepal.
“UNICEF calls on government and development partners, civil society, communities and families, to contribute to the prevention, therapy, treatment, and rehabilitation services for children and young people and ensure that mental health becomes part of mainstream health care services in Nepal,” said the United Nations Agency in a statement issued on the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day.
For many families in Nepal, coping with COVID-19 goes beyond keeping a social distance, wearing masks and washing hands to avoid infection. It means confronting the growing uncertainties and livelihood worries that the pandemic brings which has many struggling to maintain hope in the future, it said.
“Given the previous high suicide rates in the country, the pandemic has further exacerbated the situation,” read the statement. Since mid-March 2020, 1,350 persons, including 319 children and 876 women committed suicide, overwhelmed by the emotional and mental toll of months of uncertainty and sometimes combined with experiences of trauma and loss.
Suicide among adolescent girls have increased by almost 40 per cent during the four months of lockdown compared to the same duration the previous year, with some increase among boys, according to the Nepal Police.
To note, these figures only reflect those who died from suicide and were recorded with the police. They do not include non-recorded cases, suicide attempts nor people who are thinking of committing suicide. Every suicide leaves a trail of grief among those close to them, said the UNICEF.
According to the July 2020 findings of UNICEF’s Child and Family Tracker household survey, 49 per cent of families report an increase in stress levels since the lockdown, mainly related to concerns about their capacity to support their children.
While suicide is increasing among youth, they represent a minority of callers seeking help. “It is essential to expand support services for youth as well as address the social stigma associated with mental issues,” read the statement.
The UNICEF has said that the restrictions that had accompanied the COVID-19 outbreak have had the most profound impact on children and young people whose lives had been disrupted in so many different ways including their education, recreational activities and weakening social connections with friends, peers, teachers and families.
“For others, it entails the increased risk of violence and exploitation including in families and communities. For everyone, it has meant significant changes in daily life, relationships and access to resources and services,” said Elke Wisch, UNICEF Nepal Representative.