Zim to strengthen mental health services

11 Oct, 2020 - 00:10 0 Views
Zim to strengthen mental health services Dr Sacrifice Chirisa

The Sunday Mail

Sunday Mail Reporter

YESTERDAY, Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating the Mental Health Day, with experts calling for increased funding towards mental health services.

The day, observed on October 10 every year, was running under the theme “Move for Mental Health: Let’s Invest”.

It advocated for increased international and domestic financing for mental health and well being at a time when the world is grappling with the effects of the Covid-19.

Mental Health deputy director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Sacrifice Chirisa said the day comes at a time when the country is dealing with a pandemic that exposed serious gaps within mental health service delivery in Zimbabwe.

“As we commemorate this day we are pushing for serious investments into mental healthcare because we have seen that when it is not taken care of and crisis hit, people are really affected. This year we are calling for Government and the private sector to consider and acknowledge mental health as a priority,” said Dr Chirisa.

“When you look at mental health programming within Zimbabwe, traditionally like anywhere else in the world, it has been poorly funded over the years. Our psychiatric hospitals are dilapidated, and we have very few specialised cadres.”

Dr Chirisa, however, said there has been a shift in the manner in which Government has been acknowledging the need for investment towards mental health programmes, calling for increased awareness at all levels during this year’s virtual celebrations.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is working with governments to review mental health legislation and related policies, to build capacities using the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (MH-Gap), an approach where primary healthcare workers are trained and then supervised in managing common mental disorders.

Zimbabwe is one of the six countries selected to be part of the WHO Director-General’s Special Initiative for Mental Health to strengthen these services which was followed by a national assessment of the mental health services in 2019 and virtual consultations to develop a plan of action that responded to the country’s mental health needs.

WHO Country Representative Dr Alex Gasasira said mental health is one of the most neglected conditions the world over, adding that the day gives Zimbabwe an opportunity to raise awareness of actions stakeholders are carrying out to provide quality mental health services to the general public.

“Before Covid-19, mental health was a big burden on our health and now with the pandemic it is much more important that we give mental health the attention it requires,” said Dr Gasasira.

WHO is supporting Government to strengthen policy and leadership framework for mental health services, which has seen the development of the new National Mental Health Strategy guiding programming from 2019 to 2023.

Over 300 health frontline health workers have been trained with support from WHO, to be able to detect mental health illnesses timely and provide necessary interventions.

In her remarks to mark Mental Health Day, WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said Covid-19 showed how mental health is integral to overall well-being adding that restrictions on movement and gathering, job losses, deaths of loved ones, and widespread coronavirus infections have led to fear, anxiety and depression with reports of upsurges in intimate partner violence and suicides.

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