I am a medical student at the University of Leeds, currently intercalating in International Health BSc. In May 2023, my fellow student, Alice, and I travelled to Nepal for our separate research projects. My interest in mental health services and barriers to access in Nepal stemmed from a comprehensive literature review. After consulting with my instructors, I designed a research project focused on exploring barriers faced by adolescents with depression when seeking mental health services. The objectives of my project include identifying available mental health facilities for adolescents with depression, investigating barriers to accessing these services, and proposing strategies to overcome these challenges. Deepak, a researcher associated with HERD International, guided me in selecting Pokhara Metropolitan city as my study site, where HERD International is implementing a project to strengthen the urban health system.

Upon my arrival in Kathmandu, I was warmly greeted by friendly locals, and this warm hospitality continued throughout my entire trip. The first taxi ride in Kathmandu was a thrilling experience, as the bustling roads with cars and motorbikes manoeuvring through traffic were vastly different from what I’m accustomed to in England. After a night in Kathmandu, we embarked on a 9-hour coach journey to Pokhara. Though the journey was bumpy, the breathtaking views of Nepal made it truly worthwhile. Passing through villages, towns, and even driving alongside mountains (which I tried my best not to look over the edge due to the steep drop!), I gained a glimpse into the lives of the people who call Nepal home.

Before conducting my initial interviews, I had the opportunity to settle into the tranquil city of Pokhara, which offered a stark contrast to the bustling atmosphere of Kathmandu. On the day of my first interviews, I felt a wave of nervousness, as I had never conducted interviews before, and the unfamiliar environment heightened my anxiety. Fortunately, the support and guidance of Kirti and Raju, who are associated with HERD International and based in Pokhara, put me at ease. They provided invaluable assistance throughout my fieldwork in Pokhara. Deepak, Kirti, and Raju played a crucial role in coordinating my interviews by reaching out to participants on my behalf. In the end, I conducted interviews with nine individuals, including psychiatrists, counsellors, psychologists, and medical officers. This diverse range of participants offered a wealth of perspectives on my research questions.

Following each interview, I took the opportunity to reflect on the experience and fine-tune my interview guide. As I progressed through the interviews, I grew increasingly comfortable and confident. While I had concerns about the language barrier, my use of translators during the interviews proved to be effective.

The interviews unveiled captivating and, at times, disheartening insights into the accessibility of mental health services for adolescents in Nepal. I am eagerly looking forward to analyzing the gathered data and crafting a comprehensive research report that encompasses these findings. My hope is that this report will not only provide valuable guidance for future research but also contribute to the improvement of mental health services in Nepal.

During the second week of my stay in Nepal, I returned to Kathmandu. Surprisingly, the city felt less chaotic on my second visit, perhaps because I had acclimated much better by then. I had the pleasure of savouring delicious Nepalese cuisine, with momos becoming my personal favourite. I’ll surely miss them dearly! The trip concluded with an enlightening “experience sharing” session alongside the HERD team, providing an opportunity for deep reflection.

My journey in Nepal was truly an indescribable experience. I found myself thrust into unfamiliar and challenging situations, which taught me valuable lessons and enabled me to develop new skills that will undoubtedly benefit my future career. Now that I’m back in Leeds, I wholeheartedly extend my gratitude to everyone at HERD International, especially Deepak, Kirti, and Raju, as well as the University of Leeds staff, for making this remarkable experience a reality.

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