In 2014, the Freedom Fund conducted a comprehensive needs assessment into the situation of bonded laborers in south-eastern Nepal which informed our program strategy for the region.
Through this research, we identified that many of the bonded laborers experienced emotional suffering, primarily arising from their situation of bonded labor. In line with our holistic approach to programming, the Freedom Fund sought to directly address the bonded laborers’ mental health needs, alongside delivering a range of strategies working towards their liberation.
The Freedom Fund believes that if individuals are going to sustain their freedom, then alongside accessing their rights, they need to be able to act for their own protection and development. Therefore it is important to work with them to overcome obstacles, including psychological obstacles such as severe depression that might prevent this self-help and mutual assistance.
To understand how best to overcome these obstacles, in 2015 the Freedom Fund commissioned the Helen Bamber Foundation to review existing evidence on the psychological effects of modern slavery. The research uncovered that very few studies had assessed the effects of bonded labor and little was known about how best to support the mental health needs of slavery survivors.
This study provides a clinical assessment of the psychosocial and mental health needs of bonded laborers in south-eastern Nepal and gives an understanding of how to develop psychosocial interventions in an area with scarce counselling or mental health services. It was a collaboration, commissioned by the Freedom Fund, between the Helen Bamber Foundation, Dr Kim Murray (a UK clinical psychologist and honorary researcher at King’s College London) and the Centre for Mental Health and Counselling – Nepal.