Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter
SOCIAL isolation, fear of contracting the coronavirus and death as well as loss of livelihoods among other factors have been associated with an increase in mental health disorders in Zimbabwe during the Covid-19 era.
This has also been worsened by drug and alcohol abuse among youth, which prompted the Government to craft a Mental Health Strategic Plan.
Vice President and Health and Child Care Minister Dr Constantino Chiwenga said this yesterday during the virtual launch of the Special Initiative for Mental Health and the Zimbabwe Mental Health Investment Case.
The mental health investment case will be mainly used as an advocacy tool and provide quantified evidence of the long-term health, social and economic benefits of investment in mental health in Zimbabwe.
Under the strategic plan the Government seeks to decentralise mental health services into the community, establish child psychiatry units and increase mental health funding leading to better access to mental health services for all.
VP Chiwenga said Zimbabwe was also in need of psychiatrists and the establishment of evidence based mental health treatment packages mainly for the treatment of substance use disorders and child psychiatry disorders.
“The mental health investment case will be aligned with the framework of the Special Initiative for Mental Health and used to support its goals. This will help to mobilise funding and actions in support of behaviours that improve the mental health status of all Zimbabweans,” he said.
“Shortly after, the country went into Covid-19 lockdown; restricting social gatherings, limiting funerals to a maximum of 50 mourners, and forcing most businesses to close save for essential services such as pharmacies and food stores. Consequently, social isolation, fear of contracting the virus, fear of death, loss of livelihoods among other things have been associated with an increase and worsening of mental health disorders in Zimbabwe.”
The country has however embarked on a nationwide Covid-19 vaccination campaign in line with international standards to lessen the impact of the pandemic.
He said the Ministry of Health and Child Care is seized with concerns regarding child psychiatry as there are only a few mental health facilities in Zimbabwe which provide minimal support and treatment for children with mental health problems such as autism and intellectual disabilities.
“To mitigate the above, the Government together with cooperating development partners, has come up with a programme to decentralise mental health services by upgrading infrastructure that enables children with mental health challenges to have their special needs addressed. Psychoeducation is to be offered to the people starting at community level to avoid stigmatisation,” he said.
VP Chiwenga added that drug abuse among youths is an issue that needs to be addressed seriously.
“Drug abuse acts as a deterrent to life as well as a factor affecting mental health. It plays a devastating role in the deterioration of both physical and mental wellness.
The department of Mental Health under my ministry launched The Zimbabwe National Drug Master Plan and the Treatment and Rehabilitation Guidelines for Alcohol and Substance Use Disorders, on 16 December 2020. Indeed, the Drug Master Plan guidelines sought to help spur prevention and reduction in abuse of alcohol and other substances,” he said.
“You may recall that, in 2019, my Ministry launched the Mental Health Strategic Plan.
“I am glad that this Special Initiative will give impetus to the realisation of the objectives of our strategic plan in line with the government of Zimbabwe’s priorities.”
He also said there is no total health without mental health and mental health is just as important as physical health. — @thamamoe