Partnership

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

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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. 

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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. 

Bitten by the running bug

Rev Dave Sweeney enjoyed his relay team experience at the 2017 Belfast marathon so much, that in 2018 he decided to run the full marathon. Why? He tells us here…

What sort of numpty decides it would be a good idea to run a marathon?! Well, this sort, I guess!

Having been “out of shape” for the best part of 20 years, a few years ago I began a journey back to health and fitness. Initially this was through walking regularly and diet, but as weight decreased and fitness improved, I was encouraged by a good friend to start running. I never had been much of a longer distance runner at school, much preferring the short distance sprints . However, the bug bit.

At the start, I was content just going out for 2 or 3 miles a couple of times a week and doing the odd Parkrun. Then, in 2017, I decided to take part in the Belfast City Marathon as part of a relay team. There were three of us from Bloomfield Methodist along with two others (Michael Sloan and Peter Kerr). For me, as minister of a church, it was an excellent way to promote the work of World Development and Relief with the congregation. Personally, the buzz of the day, taking part with thousands of others was just amazing – and that was just over 4 miles. I think a seed was planted that day – not that I realised it then. 

In January 2018 I had decided that I might like to train for a half-marathon and had begun to do so. Then the promotional material arrived from Tim & Laura and I thought, sure, I’ll put together another relay team – that worked well last year. A bit more support for WDR, that’ll be great. About two weeks later, I heard that my former team mate, Michael, was going to do the full marathon; another colleague told me, ‘you run a lot, you could do that no problem’. Before I knew it, I had my entry fee paid and was now doing a marathon in 3 months’ time!!

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I have to say that the support of my local church, of family and friends completely blew me away as I prepared to run. Huge generosity in giving to WDR in support of Dabane; moral support and encouragement when I thought I couldn’t do it; people on the day who came out and cheered me on.

Doing the full marathon was an amazing challenge and opportunity. It took more out of me than I ever knew I had to give! Achieving the time goal I set myself brought a great personal sense of achievement, but more than that, to know that I had encouraged many to support WDRF and that people in Zimbabwe would have clean water to drink brought even greater fulfilment. 

Time is short if you’re thinking of doing the full marathon – but if you have any running training behind you, it’s still possible. But there are loads of other ways you can get involved – relay runner, walker, fun runner. Or sponsor someone else who is taking part. Just do it – you won’t regret it!


If you’d like to join us at the 2019 Belfast Marathon, please email Laura. There are 5 events to choose from, including a 2.5 mile Fun Run/Walk, so there’s an event for everyone! This year our fundraising is for Wenchi Methodist Hospital in Ghana.  

Walking for Water

Derek Wylie was one of our 8 mile walkers at the 2018 Belfast City Marathon. Having worked behind the scenes at the Belfast Marathon for a number of years, this was his chance to experience it on the other side!  

At Methodist Conference 2017 we were invited by Irish Methodist World Development & Relief (WDR) to consider regular giving by Standing Order and also to participate in one of the Belfast City Marathon events in 2018. I opted to do both because I feel passionate about the work that World Development & Relief are involved in.

Derek after completing the 8 mile walk

Derek after completing the 8 mile walk

The event I chose was the 8 Mile Walk as I am a keen walker and also I served on the Belfast Marathon Organising Committee for 8 years and I thought it would be an opportunity to experience being a participant. The fundraising in 2018 was for the Dabane Water Workshops in Zimbabwe, providing pure clean water to local communities, which was really needed and greatly appreciated.

The 8 Mile Walk was enjoyable, we talked as we walked, there was good camaraderie as we walked in our bright green WDR bibs as a sign of witness. When we arrived at the finish in Ormeau Park there was a great atmosphere and encouragement from those who had already finished. After collecting our medals it was time for refreshment and a Picnic in the Park! In summary ,the weather was good, the event was good and the cause was good!

The 2019 Belfast City Marathon events start in Stormont Estate for the first time. This year WDR are raising funds to support the work of Wenchi Methodist Hospital in Ghana, which serves over 180,000 people providing affordable, quality healthcare to those in the region.

In light of my experience last year I would strongly encourage you to come and join us and in so doing, bring the Love of Christ to our Brothers and Sisters in Ghana.

Hoping to see you on the 5th May!


If you’d like to join us at the 2019 Belfast Marathon, please get in touch! Register by 28th February for early-bird rates!