To Salvage A Life in Nepal: Reflections on Mental Health Reintegration

Reflection by Breyona Midgett, who is researching mental health issues in Nepal this year as part of the SALT program

Natural Disaster. Resiliency. Hope.

These are a few of the many things you find in Nepal.  Kathmandu, Nepal is decorated with multicolored, vibrant houses against the backdrop of aquamarine-olive hills and the bright snow-capped Himalayas. Driving through the dusty, lively streets you can observe pockets of rural living among modern-styled homes and neighborhoods.  The 7.8M earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015, killed nearly 9,000 people, injured 22,000, and left hundreds of thousands of Nepali people homeless. The earthquake largely affected the mental state of those who lost friends, neighbors, family members, and their homes. However, there is not a shortage of hard-working citizens, striving to recover from the damage.

MCC’s partner, KOSHISH, is a nongovernmental organization working in the field of mental health in Nepal. The word KOSHISH means “making an effort” in Nepali.  The KOSHISH team is making a courageous effort to advocate and provide treatment for people living with mental illness through rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration into communities.  Sadly, when someone is showing signs of severe mental illness in Nepal they are typically not treated with respect or dignity. KOSHISH rescues individuals who are abused, chained, or abandoned in the streets due to their mental illness. Observing the life cycle of women rescued from the streets, living in KOSHISH’s transit home, and reunited with their families and community members is filled with mixed emotions for me.

Recently, I went on a trip with a KOSHISH outreach worker for a follow-up visit of a woman who was recently reintegrated to her village. We set out early on a Friday morning, taking two buses and walking an hour along sand-powdered roads along a windy hill overlooking a beautiful landscape of rice fields splashed with colored houses. When we arrived, we were met with smile-filled Namastes as we entered the village with a young female goat for the reintegrated woman. The goat will be the beginning of restoration and livelihood support for her family.

Bre Photo 2
Gathering to learn about mental health and the reintegration of one of their community members into her own home after receiving treatment in KOSHISH’s rehabilitation center.

One by one, family and community members filed into an open space with Nepali chairs and hay to sit on. The outreach worker began informing listeners about mental health issues, the story of the beneficiary, and what they can do to support her mental health and livelihood. I watched eagerly as she presented materials and listeners asked questions, appearing to really be engaged. It felt like the final moment in salvaging the life of this woman. This woman who was lost in the streets for 2 years and could not remember her name, her village, or her family. This woman who has a husband and 3 children that need her as much as she needs them. Her eldest child, a girl of 10, watches her mom speak with a smile and tears welling up in her eyes, of her experience living with schizophrenia and how happy she is now.

This is the legacy of KOSHISH. The ability to rebuild not only one life through treatment, counseling and love, but to repair relationships in order to bring lasting care and support to persons with psycho-social disabilities.

Beautiful.

I am blessed to be a part of the experience.


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