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Zimbabwe mental patients turn violent as drugs run out and government is broke to buy new stock

Marondera — Mental patients here are reported to be failing to access essential sedative drugs at government health centres as the pills are out of stock.

So dire is the situation that some patients are reportedly turning violent as they rely on the drugs to control their temper.

Mary Chambati who has a 23 year-old son, Simon, who is a psychiatric patient, confirmed that she has been failing to access the sedative drugs for him for the past two months.

“I normally collect the drugs at Marondera hospital but since August, I have been failing and I was referred to Parirenyatwa Annex hospital in Harare but I failed to get the drugs there too,” Chambati said.

She said as a result the family was being forced to keep Simon locked inside his room.

“The situation is bad. I have been visiting Marondera hospital every week since August but failing to get the drugs and I now fear that my son’s health will get worse and we will fail to control him and he will be readmitted into a mental hospital.

“Without taking the pills, Simon becomes very violent and as a result I am making sure that there is an adult male at home to help me look after him. The situation is getting worse and a number of other patients in his condition that I know in Marondera are going through similar challenges,” she said.

A source at Marondera hospital confirmed at the weekend that the institution was turning away mentally ill patients due to shortages of drugs.

“The hospital is not only turning away mentally ill patients but other critically ill patients as well. We are referring mentally ill patients to Parirenyatwa Annex hospital for help,” she said.

According to government statistics, an estimated 1, 3 million Zimbabweans have some form of mental illness and need to take drugs regularly.

David Parirenyatwa, the minister of health and child care, has previously confirmed an increase in the number of people suffering from mental disorders attributing it to economic hardships and drug abuse.

“The problem has been increasing in Africa and Zimbabwe has not been spared. We have to deal with the root causes of such illnesses but how are we going to do that with the economic hardships,” Parirenyatwa said last year.

According to founder and president of the Zimbabwe National Practitioners Association, Friday Chisanyu, apart from alcohol and drug abuse, cultural and traditional issues were contributing to the rise in cases of mental illnesses.

Chisanyu recently urged people to seek assistance from traditional healers especially in cases where medical doctors cannot assist mental patients.

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