In the face of an ongoing, global pandemic, we should not blindly trust that our solutions are the best. Gazing outwards helps us get a comparative view on the crisis. In Nepal, psychology students are highly involved in the response to the ongoing crisis.
One way of broadening our horizons is to establish good relations with psychology departments in different countries. One example is the collaboration between the Centre for Crisis Psychology and Tribhuvan University in Nepal, enabling exchange of students and knowledge, which is critical in dealing with a global pandemic (1)https://www.uib.no/sfk/123593/prosjektstart-i-nepal.
Impaired New Year’s
To get a fresh perspective on how psychology students can contribute in the ongoing pandemic, Katarsis has interviewed Gita Limbu, Kabita Shrestha and Anil Sharma. They study at the Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, as 1st-year residents of the M. Phil. in Clinical Psychology at the university.
– In Nepal, the global coronavirus pandemic was confirmed with the first case in Kathmandu on the 24th of January, Shrestha informs us. As of the 13th of April, 14 cases were confirmed, and 13 patients are still undergoing treatment (2)https://covid19.mohp.gov.np/#/.
The country was affected by a nation-wide lockdown on the 24th of March, a lockdown that is scheduled to end on the 27th of April (3)https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/04/14/lockdown-extended-by-12-more-days-until-april-27. The lockdown has had a heavy toll on current activities in Nepal:
– All academic examinations were cancelled, schools and colleges were closed, and national festivals such as Holi and Bisket Jatra (Nepali New Year) have been greatly affected, Shrestha comments.
With everything at stake
There is little doubt that being besieged by a global pandemic is disconcerting and worrisome. As has been covered by Katarsis in a prior article (4)https://katarsisuib.no/covid-19-en-mulighet-for-laerdom/, we need a particular focus on those who already suffer from mental illness. This perspective is mirrored by the Nepalese psychology students.
– For children, the epidemic affects their education, mental health and access to basic health services. Combined with pre-existing conditions, the pandemic can precipitate mental illness, Limbu argues.
Pre-existing obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, eating disorders or other forms of mental illness can serve as a risk factor to consequences of current, pandemic circumstances (5)https://katarsisuib.no/covid-19-en-mulighet-for-laerdom/.
– The psychological, social and economical well-being of people are at stake, Limbu stresses.
Servicing the public
How Nepalese psychology students are mobilized in facing the ongoing crisis provides a new perspective on the potential for student involvement. Limbu comments that, in addition to educating people about COVID-19 and possible reactions to the ongoing pandemic, it is essential to be available to provide counselling to those who need it.
– Since some may struggle more than others to cope with the situation, we provide counselling for those in need, Limbu reveals to Katarsis.
– In collaboration with our faculty we have created a Facebook page, where each resident in the clinical program takes turns being online to talk to patients. The psychiatric doctor on duty refers them to us, and we provide both need-based counselling services awareness about COVID-19.
The page, Manasikswasthya Nepal, is manned six days a week by the psychology students, from 10 AM to 4 PM. As an example of their involvement, the psychology students provide information about coping strategies, emphasizing positive thinking and understanding one’s own reactions as normal reactions to extraordinary cirumcstances. Additionally, they emphasize behavioral modification strategies, such as reducing the time spent on media, and establishing good recreation activities in the home.
– It is important to address psychological impacts in the general population. We are constantly active on calls and messages for providing our service, Shrestha asserts.
Aspiring to do good for society
– The main problem during this pandemic is uncertainty, because nobody knows how long this pandemic will last, Sharma explains.
Estimates for when a vaccine will be available vary widely (6)https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/world-stand-coronavirus-vaccine-200412085842883.html. There is no telling when residents of different countries will be able to return to their normal lives, nor what reactions to expect when they are able to do so.
– Some people may feel more relaxed or calm, while others may find it very difficult to cope, Sharma comments. Losing family members, spouses or friends could precipitate PTSD, so there will be a great need for psychological counselling after the crisis is over. We should be prepared for the longer-term wave of poor mental health that can follow the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the challenges that the psychology profession will face in the coming months, Limbu, and the other Nepalese students, maintain that positive thinking is paramount. Through their efforts, they show us how we have opportunities to do something good for society, and to help people cope better with the ongoing crisis.
– This worry, this pandemic, won’t last forever.
In the fall, Nepalese students from Kathmandu are coming to the University of Bergen, in an exchange program initiated by the Centre for Crisis Psychology. Hopefully, the introduction of new perspectives on psychology and its role in handling crises will lead to a mutual broadening of perspectives on mental health.