Shining Through the Shadows: A Journey of Hope and Healing
Shining Through the Shadows: A Journey of Hope and Healing

36-year-old Pratima*, who lives in Thalara Bajhang, grappled with mental health issues. She is married with two sons and three daughters. After her pregnancy in India, where her husband works as a labourer, she found herself feeling upset easily and having a low appetite. She was treated in India and was fine for a while, but when she returned home to Nepal with her husband, she again suffered from similar issues. In Nepal, she showed her hand to a local astrologist to predict her future: “He told me I will die after two years. That statement caused me stress then I suffered from mental problems every day,” she said.

“I refused to talk to anyone, denied eating, started to live alone, had difficulty sleeping and started suspecting that other people were talking about my situation and wanted to kill me,” she expressed. Seeing her situation, her family took her to traditional healers known as Dhami Jhakri for treatment. That caused her family to spend a lot of money, sell belongings and start slaughtering goats and chickens for worship.

All this treatment from the Dhami Jhakri had no positive impact on her. In time, Pratima suffered from serious mental health symptoms such as walking on the road alone, sleeping on the road and scolding and teasing passers by. Again, her husband took her to another type of traditional healer (known as Devi) who said she was suffering from a witches’ shadow, and she can only be treated after killing that witch by hanging them from a rope on their neck! After that, when her family members (husband and brother-in-law) were taking her meet to yet another traditional healer, on the way she jumped into the Seti River from the road (a suicide attempt). Immediately her brother-in-law jumped to the river to save her, but she almost forcefully drowned him too. Her husband with the help of other people rescued both of them in an unconscious condition.

When the Mental Health Project began at Thalara (implemented through Dalit Help Society , with technical and financial support from UMN), project staff visited homes in Pratima’s area to identify and counsel people with mental health problems. After meeting her, project staff requested her family to take her to Bajhang’s District headquarters, where a mental health camp was held. There she met a psychologist and was prescribed medicine. She started to take the medicine and her health condition has now improved. She shares, “Currently I’m receiving regular medication and counselling services from my local health post. This is like my second birth! If I hadn’t received the proper treatment at the right time, I wouldn’t be here, which could have caused my family to also experience mental problems. I have realised how we, as community people of the rural areas, have blindly accepted the local traditional healers and how our condition worsened day by day. Now, I am very happy to do my daily activities, take care of my children, do farming and participate in community work.” She has emerged from the shadows and is living her life without fear and self-exclusion.

* Name changed

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