Anamika will never forget April 25, 2015. On that day her husband died in the massive earthquake that rocked Nepal.
The world followed the news cycle for days, filled with images of death and destruction from a magnitude 7.8 quake. But the news cycle moved on and the world did not see what happened to the survivors in the weeks and months after the disaster as they dealt with their losses. Anamika escaped her pain and stress by drinking alcohol every day. When a mental health program supported by Americares came to her town, Anamika discovered other ways to cope.
“By watching this, I feel relieved,”
The event Anamika attended was part of a mental health program Americares designed for Nepal earthquake survivors. Americares experts worked with local health workers to dramatize how stress from the disaster might appear in families and the community, including domestic and alcohol abuse, depression and even suicide. As part of the program, community health volunteers also learned to reduce their own job and personal stress.
In the first year, more than 217,000 people in 176 communities attended the street theater productions. Afterwards, some survivors sought mental health care in hospitals; others, like Anamika, recognized resources around them, such as neighbors and family. In Kavre, one viewer remarked with sadness, “If this theater had been performed one month ago, maybe my friend wouldn’t have committed suicide.”
Quick response in the immediate days after a disaster saves lives. Community health programs on the long road to recovery also save lives and help families to heal.