Even those looking sound might have mental health issuesExperts advise sufferers to communicate their problems with others, and call for awareness drives on mental health.
“Had tried to commit suicide hundreds of times but was not successful. Tried to crash my own vehicle on purpose to kill myself but it did not happen. … Was in depression for the last two-three years, but no one understood. Instead, they scolded me, when I told them that I was in depression,” reads Prem Prasad Acharya’s Facebook status, which he posted on Tuesday before setting himself on fire outside the Parliament building at New Baneshwor.
He died in the course of treatment on Wednesday morning.
His Facebook status of over 6,500 words not only exhibits his financial woes, struggles in life and failures in business ventures, as well as bureaucratic hassles in doing business in Nepal. It is also suggestive of his poor mental health, something he had been suffering from for years.
“Suicide is a reaction to stressful life situations. It is an extreme manifestation of mental health problems, especially depression,” said Dr Saroj Ojha, a consultant psychiatrist. “Acharya’s case could be representative, as many entrepreneurs might have been going through similar mental pressures, especially after the Covid pandemic.”
As the number of entrepreneurs rises in the country, so do mental health problems in such people. And the problems have arisen significantly after the pandemic, according to mental health experts.
Although there has been no systematic study on suicidal thoughts or mental health problems in business people or entrepreneurs in Nepal, reports in international media show there has been a marked rise in suicide among entrepreneurs after the pandemic.
Hundreds of people lost their relatives and thousands became jobless, incurred losses in business and faced other problems. Some struggled to clear debts or pay back loans to financial institutions.
“People looking healthy from outside could also be suffering from serious mental health problems,” added Ojha. “It all looks normal from the outside but no one knows what they are going through inside. Unlike other health problems, most mental health problems do not get diagnosed unless a patient talks about the problems with others.”
Doctors say suicide affects people of all ages and backgrounds.
“A couple had hung themselves to death in a tea estate in Ilam on the same day [Tuesday],” said Dr Basudev Karki, a consultant psychiatrist at the Nepal Mental Hospital. “Over 18 Nepalis are committing suicide every day—this is not a small number.”
Data provided by the Nepal Police show 6,792 people died by suicide (over 18 people on average each day) in the fiscal year 2021-022. The number was lower than the previous fiscal year 2020-2021, when 7,117 (over 19 each day) took their own lives.
Doctors say there could be multiple reasons for the occurrence of suicidal thoughts. Most people cannot communicate their feelings even with family members.
Due to the social stigma attached to mental health patients, and lack of awareness, people in Nepal generally do not like to talk about mental health problems, experts say. They say that people do not attempt suicide for a single reason. Whatever the cause, suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect—impacting families, friends, colleagues, communities and societies.
According to clinical psychiatrists, even severely depressed people can change their minds if they get proper and timely counselling. They say that the impulse to kill oneself does not last long and many people try to get help before choosing to end life.
Easing access to counselling services, timely detection of mental health problems, imparting life skills to people, and creating general awareness of the stigma attached to mental health problems are some ways to cut the suicide rate.
“It is the responsibility of the relatives, friends and family members to help those with mental health problems,” said Karki. “Suicides can be prevented and there are several ways to change the minds of those having suicidal thoughts.”
Experts on mental health say there is a tendency of concealing mental health issues, largely due to the stigma attached to it and this stigma has its roots in lack of education.
“All kinds of mental health problems including suicidal tendencies have been seen in a significant number of people in Nepal,” said Dr Phanindra Prasad Baral, chief of the Non-communicable Disease and Mental Health section at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division. “We are doing our best to address mental problems, but our efforts have been insufficient to prevent suicides.”
A study carried out by the Nepal Health Research Council shows that about 13 percent of the population suffers from some form of mental disorder, which means around one in eight people has mental health issues.
The World Health Organization says 800,000 people die by suicide every year across the globe and 16 million people attempt to kill themselves.
“Suicides are preventable and much can be done to prevent it at individual, community and national levels,” states the UN health agency.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the following helplines.
Nepal Mental Hospital suicide hotline: 1166
Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital suicide prevention hotline: 9840021600:
Patan Hospital crisis helpline for suicide prevention: 9813476123
The Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation: 16600102005