Poverty & Mental Health

Our latest blog has been written by Mrs. Bina Silwal, the Executive Director of KOPILA-Nepal (WDR Partner). Bina looks at poverty in terms of mental health and wellbeing and shares Kopila’s experience.

KOPILA-Nepal (KN) was established as a non-government social organization in 2001 with a vision  towards a society in which the rights of all people are realized and basic needs are met.

The team at KOPILA-Nepal strives to ensure that the most marginalised people in their society can enjoy their fundamental human rights and psychosocial wellbeing. To achieve this mission, it has been working with the most marginalized women and children through developing and mobilising self-help groups, skill development training, education, psychosocial counselling, mental-health treatment, re-habitation & social re-integration and advocacy for rights. Kopila Nepal works with family, community members, school teachers, and policy maker/implementers to deliver these programmes.
Currently we are working in nine districts of Gandaki Province (Western Nepal). 

Various studies, globally and in Nepal, have reported the reciprocal relationship between mental health and poverty. KOPILA also have similar experience that psychosocial and mental health affect peoples' socio-economic status of individuals and their family. Though there is no statistical evidence, we have experienced that many families living in chronic poverty are at the highest risk of developing poor mental health and psychosocial problems in the community. 

During our work in the community we found several such examples and we realized that medication only does not heal mental health problems. Therefore, we need to find out the cause that triggered mental health or psychological problem and plan our intervention accordingly. As stated above, in the case of the community we found that poverty has significantly contributed to increased poor mental health and this has pushed the whole family into poverty. Poverty should not only be taken as economic poverty but powerlessness, poor social support network, discrimination, voiceless are different forms of poverty.
For example, in Nepal, there is huge gender discrimination. Women’s voices are not heard, they are not part of decision making. They may have money to spend but they are still poor. In rural Nepal people are discriminated based on gender, caste, ethnicity, disability and so on and they are at more risk of falling into mental health problems.

How poverty can affect mental health


Kopila Nepal works with poor and marginalized women who are widows, abandoned, abused or victims of rape. Their voice is not heard, and they are they do not have any power even to demand rights they are entitled to. They are having problems to provide for their children’s basic needs and feel highly unsecured and vulnerable. Most of these women have developed the symptoms of serious anxiety and depression. Kopila Nepal provides psychosocial counselling to help develop their self-esteem. Medication is provided only if their symptoms are serious and, where possible, support is provided to make some income. When they start earning, they feel more secure, their self-confidence improves and due to Kopila they realise that they are not alone in their fight. This helps their mental health and also helps women become independent. 

Income generation support to SHG members in Sildujure VDC.JPG

Ganga Magar 52, a single mother, lives in Taprang village with her 3 children. She got into mental health problem due to difficulty to provide her children, Kopila-Nepal referred her for mental health treatment, counselling and provided goat-keeping training and business skills. She now earns enough to meet the basic needs of the family and can send her children to school. 

Mangali Ranabhat, 49, a resident of Madi 4, Thumako Danda suffered from poor mental health after the death of her husband. Due to her poverty she could not afford treatment as it is not available at local health centre in the village. Kopila Nepa also l supported her for her treatment, provided counselling and supported for goat-keeping business. She now is sending her daughter to school and is managing her home well with the income she makes. 

There are several stories of people and families whose mental health is suffering due to poverty. Kopila Nepal knows that this problem cannot be healed only by medication but needs a proper counselling. Furthermore, to help provide a solution, we must continue to identify the triggers for poor mental health in these circumstances. 

A journey of faith & exploration

September 2014 saw the first trek to Everest Base camp in aid of Kopila-Nepal (WDR Partner) and The Surf Project. In this blog, one of the members of this first team, Jim McBain, shares his reflections on the trek and how it really is for all ages... 

Suspension bridge.jpg

When the Methodist Church in Ireland approved the first fundraising trek to Everest Base Camp I was immediately interested. My son had been there and come home with photos of soaring snow-covered peaks and huge suspension bridges over deep ravines and raging rivers.  Mountain villages perched on terraces and Sherpa farmers tending their yaks added to the lure. I wanted to go, but at the age of 70 I knew there would be obstacles. I was sure my wife would oppose the idea and get support form our daughter, a hospital doctor who understood the dangers of altitude sickness. However, when I cautiously broached the subject, I was surprised by my wife’s willingness to let me apply;  she was confident that a man of 70 would be turned down on grounds of age and idiocy! 

The organisers were more sympathetic. Jono and Beth stated their willingness to let me join the party if I passed the medical and coped with their testing training hikes in the Mournes. And so it was, that in September 2014, I set off with 19 other adventurers on the trip of a lifetime.  I kept a journal of my time which runs to many pages but shows how each day brought fresh joys.  Many memories crowd my mind, one being a poster in a hostel half way to base camp which proclaimed “Age is just a number”.

The fact that I made it there and back owes more to the experienced leadership of our Sherpa guides and porters than to any claims I might make for strength and stamina.  No doubt 13 days of continuous trekking [8 days up – 5 days down] demands a degree of mental and physical fitness, but it is perfectly doable with a bit of training and preparation.  Supported every step of the way by fellow travellers it was a journey of faith and exploration.  We were on a Mission Together– to reconnect with our faith in the company of other believers in a setting which proclaimed the creative power of the Almighty.  It is easy in the Himalayas to look around and praise the name of Him who made it all.  The fact that the money we raised [over 30,000 Euro] was doing so much good was an added blessing- check out Kopila's work here

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I would encourage anyone with a sense of adventure and a desire to do one outrageous thing in their life to join.  You will not get the opportunity to laze on a lounger by a 4-star pool, but you will have the chance to bathe in waterfalls flowing from glaciers and along the way marvel at monasteries on hilltops and flowers at your feet.  As for the altitude, have no fear.  Jono and Beth will look after you and bring you home glowing with renewal and fulfilment and a feeling of achievement unlike anything you have ever known.

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If you'd like to follow in Jim's footsteps and climb Everest Base Camp to fundraise for Kopila-Nepal, please get in touch. You can download the brochure here, or for the Himalayan Trail Trek click here. The money raised by the teams has a huge impact on Kopila as they continue to improve the lives of local people in Nepal. 

Women don't need to find a voice

In February, the ‘Fab Four’ (Princes William and Harry, the Duchess of Cambridge
and Meghan Markle) chaired a forum at The Royal Foundation and the world got
another chance to learn more about Ms. Markle and the causes she will likely
champion when she becomes a member of the Royal Family.

Image:  BBC News

Image: BBC News

As with any of their public appearances, the media coverage was vast. Whether
you wanted to know what Catherine was wearing, how Meghan had styled her hair,
or were actually more interested in what they talked about, news outlets had it all
covered. Reading over what was discussed at the forum, something Meghan said jumped
out at me,

"You'll often hear people say 'You are helping people find their voices', I
fundamentally disagree with that because women don't need to find a voice - they
have a voice. They need to feel empowered to use it and people need to be encouraged to listen.”

These words, set against the backdrop of the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns,
were liked, retweeted and shared widely on social media.

Having previously been a UN women’s advocate, it is no surprise to hear Ms.
Markle talk about these issues. So why does it matter?
It matters because she has a loud voice. She has a platform to speak from. People
want to listen. In fact, even if you didn’t want to listen, you’d have a hard time
avoiding it, what with the media interest in the soon-to- be royal. Of course the
harsh reality is that very few people have a platform like hers and they have to fight
to make their voices heard.

However, what Meghan (can I call her Meghan?!) was getting at is significant. It’s
not a case of teaching people how to speak, but rather a case of showing them
that they have the right to speak and then for them to discover how to use their

Sita- Kopila.png

Sita Devi Adhikari has experienced this through Kopila-Nepal (WDR partner). As a
single mother with a low income, Sita was overlooked and undervalued in her
society. Through a self-help group at Kopila, she grew in confidence and became
empowered to use her voice.

“Now I am also aware about my rights that I didn’t know existed. [Working with
Kopila] has helped me to build my self-esteem and not allow someone else to
exploit me. I hope Kopila-Nepal will progress in days to come and help to overcome the difficulties women like me face.”

Organisations like Kopila are a great example of what Meghan Markle was saying.
The women they work with have a voice, but due to circumstances and culture,
they often do not get a chance to use it. Kopila teaches and equips women so that they can empower themselves and speak out, to challenge the status quo and
ultimately to pave a new way for women in their communities.

If you’ve read any of our blogs before or had a look around our website you will
know that WDR is committed to seeing people fulfil their God-given potential. For
every person, the outworking of that will look different. At the root of it all is the
desire to see justice for those who, for so long, seemingly had no voice but have
now discovered it to become the spokespeople of their own cause; speaking to the
issue and being the catalyst in engineering change.

When you choose to walk alongside WDR partners you are helping to shine a light on so many issues that affect millions of people around the world. Whether it’s women’s rights in Nepal,
access to education in Southern Africa or Lebanon, your donations, prayers and
your voice make a difference.