by Aishworya Shrestha, Deputy Chairperson at Antardhoni Nepal
In the bustling streets and public squares of Nepal, a small group of social service workers gathers every Saturday. Armed not with banners or slogans, but with knowledge and empathy, they are on a mission to break the stigma surrounding mental health. These weekly awareness campaigns are transforming perceptions and fostering a more inclusive dialogue about mental well-being.
Nepal, like many countries, grapples with a deep-rooted stigma surrounding mental health. Conversations about emotional well-being are often hushed, and individuals experiencing mental health challenges are met with silence and misunderstanding. This stigma is particularly pronounced among older generations, where seeking help for mental health concerns is seen as a sign of weakness.
Every Saturday, our team from Antardhoni Nepal takes our awareness campaign to public places, becoming a beacon of hope and knowledge. Our mission is clear: to break the silence and dispel the myths surrounding mental health.
Curiosity Meets Stigma
As people bustle through the public spaces, curiosity often gets the better of them. They approach the campaigners, eager to know more about the cause we are championing. However, a curious pattern has emerged—when people discover that the topic is mental health, many quickly claim that they are 'fine' and that they have “no mental health”.
This reaction is especially common among older generations, who have grown up in a culture of silence around mental health. The stigma runs so deep that acknowledging any form of mental health struggle is often seen as taboo.
A Shift in Perception
While the response from older generations is marked by hesitation and denial, the campaigners have observed something different among the younger crowd. Young people seem more aware and open to discussing mental health. They are willing to engage in conversations and ask questions, signaling a shift in perceptions.
We know that changing deep-seated stigmas will take time and patience. We do not expect to erase the stigma in a single campaign, but we believe in the power of dialogue. Each Saturday, we engage in conversations, answer questions, and share stories of hope and recovery.
A Path to Progress
The weekly awareness campaigns are just one step on the path to progress. They are a testament to the resilience of those committed to breaking the silence surrounding mental health. While the journey is ongoing, these campaigns have ignited a spark of change—a spark that has the potential to grow into a beacon of hope for a more inclusive and compassionate society.
As we witness these efforts unfold, we are reminded that the journey toward better mental health is a shared one. It's a journey where every conversation matters, every mind enlightened is a victory, and every heart touched brings us closer to a world where mental health is a topic not shrouded in darkness, but openly discussed, understood, and supported.
Antardhoni is a women-led organisation working for a more aware, accessible and affordable mental health services in Nepal.