MENTAL health specialists have bemoaned acute shortages of mental healthcare professionals and funding amid a spike in mental health cases.
Yesterday, the country joined the world in commemorating World Mental Health Day, whose objectives are to raise awareness on mental health issues and provision of support systems for the affected.
Society for Pre- and Post-Natal Services (SPANS) secretary and chief talent team leader Linos Muvhu yesterday told NewsDay that although government has invested a lot of money in psychiatric hospitals, the country still experiences shortages of mental health professionals.
“Government has invested a lot of money in halfway and psychiatric hospitals. However, we have a huge shortage of mental healthcare professionals in Zimbabwe. If you look at the recent special World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative, it indicates that Zimbabwe has a shortage of human capital in terms of psychiatrists, mental health nurses and clinical psychologists and social workers,” Muvhu said.
“It’s a crisis now when it comes to supporting mental health. We have to take note that mental health challenges come in different forms. On top there is lack of social support where the family institution used to play a very important role in curbing mental health challenges.
“WHO has declared that there is no health without mental health but focus has only been on physical health, and funding for mental health is non-existent from development partners. It’s a crisis.”
Addressing delegates during World Mental Health Day commemorations at the University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services health service director Commissioner Evidence Gaka said prisoners were entitled to mental healthcare.
“We are going to have another World Mental Health Day commemoration in all our prisons to raise awareness for the inmates. Our prisons have two mental health facilities where we work with the Ministry of Health and Child Care to provide mental health services,” Gaka said.
Meanwhile, health experts say stigma has affected the fight against mental health, with women and youth being the worst affected.
Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network director Dorothy Hove decried poor service delivery at private institutions for mental health patients.
‘‘Mental health remains hidden and many people suffer from it because of the labels and stigma associated with it. Mental health should be a priority for all,” Hove said.
Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network director Wilson Box said youths were being forced into illicit drugs due to joblessness and economic challenges in the country.
‘‘Drug abuse is becoming another burden as it brings mental health challenges,” Box said.