Sunday, November 25, 2018
By Maggie Doyne
Six years ago this month, we lost a student to suicide. She was strong, kind and compassionate, had a beautiful smile and was quick to laugh. She always got involved in school activities, was a great dancer, loved music and performed on stage with grace and poise. She was a good friend, a wonderful sister, and a proud, hard-working Kopila student. Manisha had faced a lot of adversity in her life, including the loss of her mother and father at a young age and a life of living below the poverty line. What happened to her is a tragedy and I am terribly sorry that we missed her cries for help.
In the months and years following Manisha’s loss and the loss of other lives in our community, I started pouring through the alarming reports of suicide surpassing childbirth as the leading killer of girls and women of childbearing age in Nepal. I talked to counselors, the local police force and hospital, social workers, and experts on mental health and I read every resource I could get my hands on. It all worried me more than anything I’ve ever read. What felt worse was that it seemed like no one was aware of how serious the issues really were. I have stumbled across more articles on chaupaadi and menstrual practices in Nepal than on the mental health crisis. While both are important social issues, mental health takes the lives of far more women and girls.
The loss of Manisha was one of the worst tragedies our community has ever faced and to this day, it shapes our programming and the mental health and counseling services we provide. We lost Manisha during the month of the Nepali festivals when school was off. Now we run a camp so that our school is not off session and we can be aware of kids in need, making sure they have a safe place to come. As the years have passed, our Dashain Camp has grown. We opened our counseling center, our women’s center, and the Big Sisters' Home for at-risk teenage girls. We have added 5 mental health and wellness experts to our team, and to this day are only free counseling center in our entire region. My hope for the future is that every girl and woman has the support she needs. Thank you for being a part of that wish.