One-day advocacy workshop at Banke

A one-day ‘Interaction program on the integration of mental health and psychosocial support at local level’ was organized by TPO Alliance, with the support of TPO Nepal and International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, at Baijanath rural municipality, Banke, on 21 February 2022. A total of 20 participants participated in the workshop, including the chair and vice-chair of the rural municipality, officials from different departments of the municipality, and ward chairs from different wards of the municipality. The workshop started at 1:30 pm and lasted two hours.

The workshop was chaired by the chair of Baijanath rural municipality Mr. Man Bahadur Ruchal Thakuri and hosted by the local journalist Alam Khan. Firstly, a presentation was given by the Head of the Program department of TPO Nepal Mr. Pitambar Koirala. His presentation focused on the introduction of the organization, mental health status worldwide and in Nepal, effects of COVID-19 pandemic, gender-based violence, conflict, and available mental health services in Nepal. Similarly, Dr. Kamal Gautam, Executive Manager of TPO Nepal, gave his presentation on community mental health and the need for mental health programs at the local level. He listed some of the activities conducted by TPO Nepal at the rural municipality, which included services to the conflict-affected population, individual and group counseling services, psychiatric consultation, and health camp. He also highlighted some of the activities that can be done by the local level for mental health promotion and prevention of mental health problems. “The local government can conduct activities such as incorporating awareness-raising, budget allocation, mental health promotion activities, and the provision of a counselor into its regular activities. This can make the activities sustainable and can address the mental health needs of the community”, said Dr. Gautam.

The presentation was followed by questions from the participants, such as medicine support and the model of helpline counseling. After this, the elected representatives gave speeches on mental health. “This is an important program which can be helpful to reduce the increasing number of suicide, depression, and substance use cases in the community”, said Man Bahadur Khatri, chair of ward number 5 at Baijanath rural municipality. Similarly, Sitaram Tharu, chair of ward number 7 of the rural municipality said that programs targeting gender-based violence (GBV) and mental health are required in the community, and multi-sectoral support is necessary for that. Likewise, Kali Bahadur Singh, chair of ward number 4 said that people still go to traditional healers for the treatment of mental health problems in the community, which is why there is a need to develop local human resources in the future.

The acting Chief Administrative Officer of Baijanath rural municipality Dan Bahadur Aidee also gave his remarks on this matter. “Everyone must act together to address the burning issues of mental health problems in the community. Elected representatives and bureaucrats also need to change their mindset regarding this matter. Now, we need to integrate mental health in every program at the local and the provincial level”, said Mr. Aidee.

The vice-chair of Baijanath rural municipality Sharada Regmi said that she was expecting to learn more about the causes of mental health problems and their management so that they could reach more people with the information. “Baijanath rural municipality is probably the first local level to buy mental health medicines on its initiative and distribute freely to the community people. We are committed to working on the problems that we see in the community and we need your support for that”, said Ms. Regmi.

Lastly, Mr. Man Bahadur Ruchal Thakuri, chair of Baijanath rural municipality gave his closing remarks. “Our social and spiritual values are leading people with mental health problems towards complications because they go to traditional healers as the first point of service. Mental health problems are increasing in the community which is leading to large-scale effects in the family, community, and nation. So, these problems need to be addressed soon. This program has further caught our attention to begin working on this issue. We need to take these programs to the community level as well. While planning for the next fiscal year’s budget and programs, we commit to prioritizing mental health. I would like to thank TPO Nepal for organizing this advocacy program”, said Mr. Thakuri, and the program ended. This workshop was important in sensitizing the elected representatives about mental health, whose leadership in the matter can bring changes in the lives of the community people.

This event was featured by a local online news portal ‘Youth Today News’ which can be accessed here:

https://youthtodaynews.com/news/E63sMqW1-2022-02-21

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