BY PRESTIGE MUNTANGA
CIVIL society organisations (CSOs) have called for a review of the country’s health laws to ensure they protect people with mental health problems.
This came out during a discussion organised by the Women Institute for Leadership Development (Wild), My Age Zimbabwe and Red Cross held at the Bulawayo Club under the theme Abatsha Let’s Dialogue.
Ingutsheni Hospital health and childcare provincial co-ordinator Chipo Gandiwa said the country’s health laws were archaic as they were last reviewed two decades ago and were no longer in sync with the new disease burden affecting the country.
Gandiwa said funding for mental health was inadequate to effectively deal with the problems bedevilling the country.
“The Health Act was last revised in 1996 and some of the provisions are now outdated. The Health ministry is headed by a deputy director, which shows that there is a problem. We only get 0,42% funding for mental health from the ministry which is too little to deal with the challenges we have,” Gandiwa said.
“This month, we have admitted 150 patients aged 12-35 years at mental health institutions and they are mostly from tertiary institutions. It is very difficult because we don’t have rehabilitation centres here. Referring patients to private institutions does not work because it is very expensive. We are very concerned with that and we appeal to the government to work with the private sector and establish rehabilitation centres that will be accessible to everyone,” she said.
Gandiwa said they had partnered with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to address some of the mental health challenges.
“So far we have started training our nurses and soon there will be a committee that will be going around psychiatric institutions to identify the most needed materials. Ingutsheni does not have rehabilitation centres,” Gandiwa said.
My Age Zimbabwe executive director Onward Chironda said mental health problems were more dangerous than physical illness.
“Many people end up committing suicide due to mental illness. Due to COVID-19 lockdowns, many people were affected by economic problems. Everyone is operating on the streets to survive.
“Almost 99,9% of people in the country have a state of mental health problem. It can affect anyone irrespective of age, personality or background. If you are a good mental being, you know how to manage and manoeuvre through the work around you.”
Abangane Platforms director Zibusiso Munandi said there was need for CSOs to engage communities on mental health challenges.