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Pay attention to mental health

Mirirai Nsingo

It is high time the country pays more attention to mental health as the neglect of mental health patients in some cases leads to suicide or homicide, psychologists have said.

Responding to articles carried in The Saturday Herald last week, Noreen Kudzanai, a community psychologist noted with concern how most mental health cases were being neglected and only paid attention to only when they escalate.

“Mental health has often been neglected in Zimbabwe’s health and development policy agenda. Faced with many challenges including intractable poverty, chronic diseases, as well as conflict, leaders frequently overlook the importance of mental health.

“While mental illness is not a death sentence as one can remain functional despite the condition as long as they get adequate health care services, if left untreated, mental illness can degenerate just like any other illness and at times may lead to suicide or homicide.”

Noreen says a lot needs to be done to demystify mental health so that it can get equal attention just like any other health conditions.

According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, at least 1,3 million people are living with mental illness in Zimbabwe and Noreen believes the community has a role to play to support the affected to reduce the condition from escalating.

However, in Zimbabwe, mental illness continues to be associated with avenging spirits, witchcraft and demons and all this has contributed to serious discrimination.

Despite the growing numbers over the years of people affected with mental illness, mental health services, including drugs, remain in dire shortage across the country with mental health drugs such as Fluphenezine deconoate (FD) and Chlorpromazine (CPZ) constantly in short  supply.

A psychology graduate, Mercileen Marandu believes improving mental health care services would assist people find ways to cope effectively with their chronic condition and this could also held reduce poverty levels.

“Addressing mental healthcare needs will reduce health and economic burden of mental disorders. There is a worryingly low ration of psychologists and psychiatrists to the general population.

“Psychologists as behavioural health providers play a major role in understanding how biological, behaviour, social factors influence health and illness.”

Mercileen further argues that progress towards mental health state in Zimbabwe’s community is still hampered by lack of resources and it’s time to reconsider the direction of mental health care in the country.

“Improving mental health is a means of unlocking development potential, a neglected link in the development chain.”

Noreen argues that anyone was susceptible to mental illness adding that mental illness may exist in more subtle forms such as depression, anxiety, post natal depression and substance abuse.

“Mental illness at times may go unnoticed and acknowledged with society labelling the individuals lazy, unmotivated and dramatic as they battle such misunderstood forms of illness. 

“Sadly mental illness knows no boundaries when it comes to age. Young children are equally affected by forms of mental illness, sadly society puts pressure on the parents of the children to keep their children in control. The parents may continue to try but in vain.”

She further argues that mental illness is commonly identified by members of the population in its extreme form where individuals have an unkempt look, are destructive or incoherent. This image has however affected how mental health is viewed, understood and prioritised.    

“Sigmund Freud, who is regarded as the ‘Father of psychology’, viewed mental illness as emanating from individuals’ coping mechanisms which may be different from others as they go through life struggles. Mental illness manifests itself in different forms and is caused by diverse factors.

“Improving mental health is a means of unlocking development potential, a neglected link in the development chain.”

Source :

The Herald

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