Retina Rimal

PhD Candidate
Department of Psychological Medicine


Department of Psychological Medicine

A source of independence, confidence and pride

At 25 years of age Retina, a mental health professional and psychologist, has had a long career and she’s chosen to care for those whom society often disqualifies as “undesirables”.

Born in Kathmandu, Nepal, Retina has always experienced social anxiety, varying in severity throughout her life. She considers herself extremely lucky to be amongst the lucky ones who have received treatment in Nepal. Her mother, who is also a psychologist, has also supported her throughout her life.

Retina obtained her Bachelors in psychology from the University of Victoria, in Melbourne. Shortly after graduation, she returned to her native Nepal driven by her love of her homeland and her unyielding need to help people.

It wasn’t long before she enrolled at the University of Bedfordshire to pursue a Master’s Degree in Mental Health. As a research topic she chose to focus on the mental health of sexually trafficked women, as it affects women of her native Nepal.

She quickly discovered the devastating and long-lasting effects of sexual slavery on the mind, as she heard countless stories of women as young as eight years old, who were kidnapped from their homelands and sold as sexual slaves in richer countries.

As an added bonus, Retina’s paper on sexual slavery was published when she was only 24 years old.

*Read Retina Rimal’s paper on sexually trafficked women’s mental health here.

“I wanted to do something for the country, something that would help Nepal”

In 2015, with her degree in hand, Retina returned to Kathmandu, not knowing what to do next.

On Saturday 25 April a 7.8 Mw magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, killing nearly 9,000 people, injuring over 22,000 and crippling the national trade and economy.

As people felt displaced and anxious about their future, Retina observed how many turned to CBT and group therapy, others however preferred to self-medicate and became victims of addiction. It was at this point that she knew where her next research venture would take her; addictions. But Retina didn’t just want to research drug, alcohol or other substance abuse, she wanted to devote all of her passion and knowledge into a lesser studied field of interest, something that rewarded the brain yet was intangible.

Behavioural Addiction is a form of addiction that involves a compulsion to engage in a rewarding non-drug-related behaviour – sometimes called a natural reward – despite any negative consequences to the person’s physical, mental, social or financial well-being.

This is how she came to the University of Auckland, working with Senior Lecturer Robin Shepherd and Frederick Sundram, she has just completed her first provisional year review in her project “Social Anxiety, Gaming Machine Play and Decision Making”, which she passed with flying colours.

Retina has found her academic journey immensely cathartic and therapeutic, having gathered valuable life lessons along the way. She has discovered that she is a lot more efficient than she ever thought herself capable of, navigating through a vast array of theory and preliminary findings involving quantitative, fMRI and qualitative data, which she presented at her first year review.

Due to the topical nature of her research, and the fact that problem gambling affects a large percentage of New Zealanders, Retina is a popular presenter at academic and community outreach programmes, something that she would have never dreamt of doing due to her social anxiety.

“My research has made me more confident and I am proud of what I have accomplished”

*If you are experiencing symptoms of problem gambling and social anxiety, and you’d like to contribute to Retina’s research anonymously, please click on the following here.

Retina Rimal