Mental health problems in the aftermath of earthquake in Nepal

Luitel NP, Kene J, Jordans M, Kohrt B, Tol W.

European Psychiatry

Published on: March 2016

Introduction: Mental health problems may increase in populations affected by humanitarian emergencies, such as the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal.

Objectives: We assessed mental health and psychosocial problems (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol use disorder, suicidal ideation), and available mental health resources to deal with these problems 4 months after the earthquakes.

Methods: The study was conducted in three affected districts: Kathmandu, Gorkha, and Sindhupalchowk. The study used a mixed methods design with both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The outcome measures used in the study were locally validated Hopkins Symptoms Checklists (HSCL), PTSD Checklist-Civilian version (PCL-C), Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT), and a functioning impairment scale. We used a stratified multi-stage cluster sampling method to select 513 adults (171 from each districts).

Results: 32.4% (26.7-38.7; 95% CI) of participants met threshold criteria for depression, 30.8% (24.5-37.9) for anxiety, 5.2 (3.9-6.8) for PTSD, and 20.4% (17.1 – 24.3) for alcohol use disorder. Prevalence of suicidal ideation was 11%. Despite high rates of mental health problems, few participants reported impaired daily functioning.

Conclusion: We found elevated prevalence estimates of mental health problems but overall daily functioning was good. The need for trauma-specific treatments for PTSD do not appear to be widespread. However, support services to address anxiety, depression, and substance abuse could benefit large numbers of earthquake-affected communities.

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