My Journey in TPO Nepal

Vibha Neupane
Sr. Research Assistant

With a bit of nervousness and confusion, I entered TPO Nepal for the first time. I was not sure whether I wanted to choose mental health as my career. As a fresher, I was trying out all the possibilities I saw in my life for gaining experience and getting a secure job. The only thing I was sure about was my interest in research. As I adjusted in my first day at TPO Nepal, I found that my colleagues were very welcoming and soft-spoken. It’s already been 5 months at TPO Nepal and I am glad now that I chose this field.

Talking about mental health, it was something that I was unaware of before. I had seen people, very close to me, going through various mental health difficulties and even someone who had attempted suicide, which pinched me a lot. But I had never really understood about the problems they were facing and the struggle they were going through. Many of us, including me, have seen and heard about countless cases where people are blamed for having mental health problems and are discriminated because they are thought to be a completely different part of the society. Yet many of us choose to remain quiet and unbothered.

Depression and anxiety is a major public health problem in low- and middle-income countries like Nepal. The problem is enormous but the access to treatment for those who are facing such problems is very low. Due to the societal reaction (feeling of being judged and discriminated from their own society), people tend to hide what they are going through. Working in a project about depression, having chances to hear things about mental health from my colleagues and most importantly getting a chance to listen to the stories from adolescents with depression made me realize how neglected and stigmatized mental health actually is. It is, in fact, the tip of an iceberg.

Identifying Depression Early in Adolescents (IDEA), the project I have been involved in as a Senior Research Assistant has also given me chances to increase my exposure and help me learn. Depression is the leading cause of illness and disability in adolescents aged 10 to 19 years whereas suicide is the third cause of death among these groups. The burden of depression in this group is expected to rise in the next decade. If we are able to identify depression early in adolescents and help them manage it, we will surely be able to stop the expected rise of prevalence among this group. Coordinating with various stakeholders directly related to adolescents such as policy makers, service providers, social workers, school workers and the parents of adolescents is a key part of IDEA so as to collect their thoughts and opinions through Key-Informant-Interview (KII), Focus-Group-Discussion (FGD) and Theory of Change (ToC) workshops. Adolescents, being a focal group of this project, have been engaging with the IDEA team from the beginning for ToC as well as KIIs and have now formed a Youth Advisory Board (YAB). As members of YAB, they provide us their suggestions and thoughts on the path we are moving and help guide the project from their point of view. As a member of YAB, they will put forward their voices to tell us about the existing issues faced by youths and the possible solution within the group, and create various opportunities for IDEA and themselves as well. Activities under IDEA is bringing up useful insights from each of the stakeholders surrounding adolescents. IDEA is also providing me ideas about working on a qualitative project in many aspects; collecting quality data, learning qualitative analysis and coordinating with different government and non-government bodies.

I am very thankful to TPO Nepal for providing me this opportunity and most importantly, I want to bow down to all of my colleagues here for helping me through the beginning. Lot more to do, many more steps to be taken and many more to learn about but always with a smile and positive attitude within!!

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