Social Science Baha

The Consequences of Political Violence on Psychosocial Wellbeing in Nepal: A Review of the Current Situation

Presentation on The Consequences of Political Violence on Psychosocial Wellbeing in Nepal: A Review of the Current Situation

by Wietse A. Tol, Judith Pettigrew, and Nawaraj Upadhaya

(organised by Social Science Baha)

6 April 2008, Yala Maya Kendra, Patan Dhoka, Kathmandu

The presentation summarises the findings of a review of the medical and social science literature on psychosocial wellbeing in Nepal that was undertaken by a group of multidisciplinary researchers (anthropologists, psychologists, and psychiatrists). It also assesses relevant priorities for future research and the development of policy.

The review identified studies on the psychosocial consequences of political violence throughout Nepal’s history, including state-perpetrated violence, violence associated with refugee crises, and the Maoist insurgency.

Thirty-eight quantitative and ethnographic studies were identified. These studies document psychosocial impacts on the general population, as well as a number of specific at-risk groups, including torture survivors, internally displaced persons, refugees, and children. Consequences identified were varied and included: (a) general impacts created by decreased access to health care and deteriorated economic opportunities; threatened opportunities for child development; weakened social relationships and challenges to gender and hierarchy ideologies, (b) specific impacts, for example, increased fear, sleeping difficulties, somatic problems, and specific psychiatric problems (for example, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety symptoms).

The literature on the psychosocial impacts of political violence in Nepal suffers from a lack of interdisciplinary research, a paucity of treatment studies, limited geographical and historical foci, and methodological weaknesses. The psychosocial field in Nepal is currently a collection of disparate initiatives without a clear agenda. This is so in spite of the clear evidence that psychosocial issues are of primary consideration for post-conflict wellbeing in Nepal.

Wietse A. Tol is a clinical and health psychologist working for HealthNet TPO (Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation). He is finalising his PhD at the VU University Amsterdam, focused on the design and evaluation of psychosocial programs for populations affected by political violence in several countries. He has been involved in research and training on this topic in Nepal since 2001.

Judith Pettigrew is a social anthropologist with a PhD from the University of Cambridge. She is presently employed by the University of Leipzig, Germany, and is based at Tribhuvan University. She has conducted anthropological research in Nepal since 1990. Her original professional training was in occupational therapy, specialising in mental health, and she is also trained in psychotherapy.

Nawaraj Upadhaya is the programme coordinator of TPO Nepal, a non-governmental organisation aimed at strengthening the psychosocial sector and public mental health system in Nepal. He was trained as a social worker at St. Xavier’s in Nepal, where he teaches part-time, and has been involved in a range of general developmental activities.