Nepal earthquakes trigger mental health disorders

Signal of change / Nepal earthquakes trigger mental health disorders

By Laura Picot / 26 May 2015


According to the World Health Organization, there has been a rise in mental health disorders following the Nepal earthquakes, with approximately 10% of people being treated at temporary health clinics reporting mental health issues.


In response, the WHO has set up mobile mental health clinics in the Kathmandu region and it plans to extend to more remote affected districts. Together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, it has also produced a new guide to help non-specialist emergency workers assess and manage mental health.


Mental health conditions resulting from emergencies can include depression, traumatic disorders and prolonged grief, as well as a worsening of pre-existing disorders. Furthermore, in Nepal many farmers are expected to suffer from alcohol withdrawal symptoms as they consume large quantities in the belief that it gives them energy for field labour.



Image caption: The Nepali earthquakes have caused physical and mental damage

Image credit: IFRC / Flickr

So what?


The WHO estimates that 5-10% of people impacted by humanitarian emergencies will suffer from a resultant mental health disorder, and yet the issue remains under- reported and funded.


There is need for more discussion and awareness about the mental health burden affected regions face following disasters and how this may be dealt with. Disasters frequently occur in regions where mental healthcare provision is lacking. Nepal has one of the world’s most poorly funded mental healthcare systems per capita, with only 110 psychiatrists and one psychiatric hospital for a population of nearly 30 million. Government spending on mental health accounts for only 0.08% of the national health budget, the third lowest level in the world.


"The preparation for this type of disaster just wasn't there," said Dr Surendra Sherchan, who runs the psychiatric hospital. "The mismatch between the mental health needs and what we can deliver right now is enormous."


Following humanitarian emergencies, how can sufficient mental health support be provided in regions where it is already lacking? And what can be done to ensure that the issue is addressed, along with other needs such as shelter and food, physical health and infrastructure repair?




WHO (2015, May) Mobile health clinics help tackle post-earthquake mental health problems in Nepal

Reuters (2015, May 13) Mental health worry for Nepalis traumatized by aftershocks


What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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