Suicide in Nepal
by TSERING DOLKER GURUNG
A woman tortured by others in the neighborhood for allegedly having flings with multiple men hung herself to death; unable to bear the constant abuse.
In February last year, a family of three in Rukum committed suicide owing to abject poverty. The father after failing to provide medical treatment to his epileptic daughter made the decision to end their lives. The same thing happened with a single mother who was a victim of poverty. Unable to feed herself and her children, she convinced her three children to jump with her into the Bagmati River. The mother survived but the children did not.
Every two hours someone in the world is ending their life. Every day nearly 11 Nepalese are said to commit suicide. Most choose to hang themselves to death. 2,273 cases of suicide were reported in the country in the first seven months of the Nepali year alone. In the last two fiscal years, reported suicide cases increased by a whopping 7.8 percent.
According to a report by The World Health Organisation, most suicides occur amongst 15 to 34 year olds, meaning we are losing more and more of our youth. Doctors say depression is the major cause for suicide among youngsters. At this age, where even the smallest incident can lead a person to take such an extreme step, counseling services for youngsters become very important.
However, for a country like Nepal where mental illness is related to craziness, the situation becomes worse. Patients who seek treatment are seen as 'psycho' and shunned by society. Name calling is common and isolation the general treatment.
Even today, the majority of Nepali people remain deprived of psychiatric services. There is only one mental hospital in the entire country. Psychiatric services have opened in hospitals but most are based in the capital and other urban areas. There are only 50 registered psychiatrists in the country; most of whom are said to be serving outside the country.
The country does have a National Mental Health Policy 1996 that was adopted by Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Representatives of the National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Health. The policy vowed to ensure the availability and accessibility of minimum mental health services for all the population of Nepal by the year 2000, particularly for the most vulnerable and under-privileged groups of the population. Yet 11 years after the set time period we fail to see any improvement. Villages across Nepal where suicides are more rampant still lack basic mental health services.
Rates of mental illness has been high, more so after the conflict in the country. A research by Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation Nepal found that 60 percent of child soldiers have high levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, while 33 percent of children who never associated with armed groups have elevated symptoms. These children haven't received treatment and the government still hasn't initiated any programs to do so either.
Although, it may not feature yet in the list of countries with the highest suicide rates, the fact that every other day a Nepali is taking his/her own life should be of sufficient concern for the government to take note of the problem.