Poverty

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. 

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. 

Unexpected Bonuses in Bolivia

If I give money to an organisation, I may simply be expecting the thing they said would happen, to happen. If that was the case, I’d probably be happy enough. However, often when good development activities are carried out, there can be positive ramifications beyond what was expected.

If I may use the example of Irish Methodist funded work in Bolivia. The basic idea was to provide solar ovens (10% of cost was paid for by recipient) for domestic use. The results:

1. As intended, time has been freed up for women to explore other productive activities or even recreational pursuits. As one women has said, “I think I love my oven more than my husband!”

The forests, previously used as the source of firewood, are being conserved. All this was hoped for before things started.

However, there have been other consequences:

2. The involvement of the Methodist Church in Ireland has led to new Bolivian Methodist communities joining the scheme.

3. Because of the ‘extra’ time now available to women, community discussions have been initiated and training delivered around gender roles within the community.

The solar ovens have become less about economics and the environment and more about women’s empowerment.

4. The ‘ovens project’ is happening where a proposed hydroelectric dam may be built. It is risky to do leadership training in such an area as the powerful and wealthy do not wish to be challenged.

However, the ‘ovens project’ provides a cover under which such training can happen less obviously so that local people can understand the issues and mobilise themselves to lobby for their rights.

5. The ovens and their success has been seen by other local NGOs and this has led to an increase in demand. A deal is now being brokered with local commercial enterprises to produce the oven parts locally and the increased demand will mean a reduction in cost.

Also, importantly, it is expected to lead to 800 new jobs.

As was told to me by Emma Donlan, Christian Aid Country Manager for Bolivia, “The Methodist Church in Ireland has been the springboard”. It is great when development throws up unexpected bonuses and very significant bonuses at that.

NB Irish Methodist World Development & Relief co-funds some work with Christian Aid Ireland. In the above case the ‘shared’ partner is the Bolivian NGO, Soluciones Practicas.

 

Running for God's purposes

Beth Hand was one of our relay runners at the 2018 Belfast marathon. Inspired to raise money for rural communities in Zimbabwe, and spurred on by Paul’s words in Romans (as well as some words from Usain Bolt!), Beth laced up her trainers and got training!


Belfast. 7th May 2018. The words of Usain Bolt ran through my head as I watched out for my team mate “train hard, turn up, run your best and the rest will take care of itself”. Bolt and I are in no way similar in fact I am his complete opposite especially in regards my athletic ability; in rounders I would be the one to put the team out, in squash I get hit with the ball and normally even the sight of football on the television puts meet sleep (perhaps a blessing to my husband so that he can peacefully watch the slaughter of his beloved Leeds FC). 


However, for the past few years one thing has taken me off the sofa and out into the highways and byways in my trusty trainers… Belfast City Marathon Relay for WDR. I think this is the one stage at which I get excited about running. The cold, wet and miserable training is an honour when you know that many are running alongside you to raise funds and awareness for partners connected WDR. Paul wrote in Romans “so we, though many, are one body in Christ” and I love that we have the opportunity to stand with our brothers and sisters though miles apart. It is a blessing to be able to run, walk or jog knowing that God uses it for His purposes.


The day itself was thrilling with runners of all shapes and sizes spread like confetti over the city of Belfast. I dropped my husband off at the starting line (as he was running the full marathon) and headed to the change over point for my leg. When I arrived there was already a sea of Methodists in their luminous WDR bibs stretching and chatting. Most of us were a little apprehensive but filled with the adrenaline rush of community and excitement. We stood together waiting for our teammates and on their arrival it was our turn. Step after step we ran along the route watching faces cheer, smile and encourage us as the miles passed by. 


As we crossed the finishing line I felt exhilarated and exhausted but mostly thirsty! I drank nearly a whole bottle of water and as I held it in my hand I was reminded of why I had signed up in the first place. Dabane Water Workshops work in Zimbabwe to find and implement creative water solutions, something we very much take for granted. It is a gift that all should have access to and so as I had trained this was in the forefront of my mind. If we are one body in Christ then I must do my part to ensure that resources are shared equally and fairly so that all may know his provision and love. 


The marathon relay was one of the best things I have done and I hope that as a family we can continue to be part of WDR and their efforts through the marathon. Please think about joining up, you will be part of a community as you run and part of God’s mission as you cross the finishing line. 


Want to follow in Beth’s footsteps and join us at the marathon? Get in touch!