Scholarship Stories: Jaya Mental Health and Covid-19

Jaya Mental Health, helping Nepalese nurses stay physically and mentally well during the Covid-19 crisis with funding from Burdett Trust.

The reality

More than 15 months have passed since the WHO declared the outbreak a global pandemic. At the time of writing, South Asia was one of the worst hit areas with hundreds dying on a daily basis and thousands being infected at an alarming rate. Nepal has been one of the worst hit countries, plunging into a humanitarian and financial crisis with no end in sight.

In the last two months many Nepalese lost their lives whilst waiting for a hospital bed or an oxygen cylinder that simply never arrived. Nepalese nurses and doctors have given their best to save as many patients as possible, often working with inadequate resources and putting their lives at risk. But they are small in number and the pandemic revealed that the serious health professional shortage Nepal is suffering from is even worse than previously thought.

The objective

Since the start of the pandemic our team’s concern has been to reach out to communities living in remote, high altitude parts of the country where there are no health services, as well as to support Nepalese nurses in their critical role against Covid-19. 

Nepalese nurses have to get up every morning (or afternoon if they work nightshift) and prepare for the possibility that they will encounter a patient with a deadly virus. They have been dealing with death at an unprecedented scale, every day. They are strong, but still human. 

Throughout this crisis, one of our top priorities has been to help nurses staying physically and mentally well. Their well-being is central to our ability to overcome the challenges of the ongoing pandemic. Without them, Nepal and indeed the whole world cannot move towards a brighter, healthier and more equitable future.

The work

In March 2020 and right at the start of the pandemic, we ran community-based awareness sessions on infection prevention and control for health and social care staff in Ilam, Eastern Nepal. Our nurses ran workshops, walk-in information sessions and distributed leaflets on Covid-19 awareness and prevention among local health authorities, school teachers, health assistants, female community health volunteers and faith healers.

We distributed personal protective equipment (PPE) to every staff member from Ilam’s district hospital and community services, Eastern Nepal, to protect all frontline workers from infection.

We launched an emergency food relief programme and distributed lentils, rice, vegetable oil and soap to over 160 households in the deprived mountainous district of Sandakpur.

With the approval of local authorities and via an opened humanitarian corridor, our staff ran 4 community mental health clinics in remote parts of the Himalayas, offering over 800 hours of free one-to-one counselling and 52,000 medication tablets to local service users.

We launched a free phone helpline number for nurses and other health professionals affected by the crisis or in need of counselling and emotional support.

We sponsored the re-decoration of the main reception area of Patan Mental Health Hospital, the largest of its kind in Nepal and distributed food parcels among all inpatients.

We introduced art therapy to over 150 people affected by mental illness, as well as to registered and student nurses, health assistants and doctors suffering from stress and burnout.

The reach

We facilitated stress management and psychotherapeutic workshops to over 1,000 registered nurses, nursing students and health assistants working with Covid-19 patients.

The outcome

  • Over 80% of all nurses who sought our help reported feeling affected by the pandemic (personally and professionally). 
  • 64% of all nurses who sought our help stated feeling more stressed and anxious.
  • After attending Jaya Mental Health’s workshops, 100% of participants felt better equipped to help and support patients and colleagues affected by Covid-19.
  • After attending Jaya Mental Health’s therapeutic sessions on stress management, 100% of participants felt more heard and empowered.
  • 84% of all nurses taking part in Jaya Mental Health’s workshops felt able to use what they learned immediately. 
  • 91% of all nurses requested more support with managing their stress levels and emotional well-being.
  • After attending Jaya Mental Health’s art therapy sessions 90% of nurses felt more capable to understand and manage their emotions.

The people

“I never heard of art therapy before. What a beautiful, simple way to explore our mind and understand ourselves. This was something I really needed, how to look at the positives in life and to never give up “ Manisha Koirala, Third Year Nursing student

“I’ve been struggling to manage my emotions since the start of this pandemic. Balancing my work life at the hospital with my family duties has been very tough. Things have been difficult at home. Joining these therapeutic sessions has helped me not dwell on things that are out of my control. I felt someone was there to listen to me. I cried whilst sharing my worries, but it felt good, I felt relieved. I learned ways to handle my stress and problems by focusing on the things that truly matter. This is helping me a lot both at home and in my day-to-day work duties.” Devaki Kandel, Nurse

“Our mental health is as important as our physical health. I am glad to have joined other nurses and together to think about our self-worth, our value and how we also, like our patients, need help and support. This really has helped me to get rid of many negative thoughts and feelings that were doing me no good” Yogeena Niraula, Nurse

The future

We still don’t know when will this pandemic end. In early June 2021 only 0.9% of people living in low-income countries had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine (UN). 

In Nepal, the rest of South Asia and in most of Africa, billions are still waiting for a vaccine that few know when will arrive. The physical and emotional scars left by this pandemic are yet to be measured and understood.

As it is often the case, people living in low and middle-income countries and who struggle to access quality care services are likely to pay the highest price.

At Jaya Mental Health, we will continue bringing specialist mental health care to some of South Asia’s most forgotten communities. We will also continue offering free, confidential emotional and practical support to every health professional in need.

Above all, our commitment to improving the lives of people affected by mental health problems and to advocating for the role of nurses in this process will be stronger than ever.

To donate to their latest campaign, a new nursing-led walk-in mental health clinic in Upper Mustang, a very remote region in the Himalayas please visit https://jayamentalhealth.org.uk/donate/.

About Jaya Mental Health

Website: www.jayamentalhealth.org.uk
Facebook: @jayamentalhealth.org.uk
YouTube: Jaya Mental Health
Instagram: @jayamentalhealth
LinkedIn: Jaya Mental Health

About Burdett Trust for Nursing
Facebook: @burdetttrust
Twitter: @burdetttrust
Instagram: @burdetttrust

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