Precious Manomano Herald Reporter
UNICEF has commended the Government for adopting various legislation and regulations in support of mental health care in Zimbabwe, including the Mental Health Act and Mental Health Strategy as well as the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Guidelines in recognising mental health.
Statistics indicated that two-thirds of children in Zimbabwe have experienced violent discipline and are vulnerable to mental health challenges.
Mental health disorders are one of the top five causes of the high disease burden in the country.
Speaking during World Action day for mental health on Thursday, UNICEF Representative Dr Tajudeen Oyewale said mental health challenges impact many children and adolescents in Zimbabwe as several forms of violence against children.
He said more than two-thirds of children in the country experience some form of violent discipline and over a third of girls suffer from sexual violence before their 18th birthday.
“We congratulate the Government for the initiatives taken and the work done on mental health. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and its partners to further increase attention and support for mental health care for children and adolescents.
Mental health issues particularly when it relates to children and adolescents are still a taboo in many societies, also in Zimbabwe. Breaking the silence around mental health is urgently needed,” he said.
He also said abuse, neglect and other adverse childhood experiences are the main preventable causes of poor mental health.
The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures have exacerbated protection risks among children and adolescents, contributing to increased mental health challenges.
He added that school closures and the loss of learning opportunities for more than 4.5 million children in Zimbabwe have also impacted mental health.
In response to the Covid-19 induced psychosocial distress, the Government of Zimbabwe with the support of UNICEF and other partners also mobilised and built the capacity of health practitioners to offer psychosocial first aid support. Psychosocial support has been included in the assistance provided in the COVID-19 centres in the country. Moreover, Zimbabwe produced sensitization material on mental health which was broadcast on radio and television.
UNICEF also calls on all concerned stakeholders for increased attention to the mental health of children and adolescents, and for more investments in parenting programmes as parents and caregivers can provide much-needed safety and security for children and adolescents to flourish and thrive.
UNICEF Zimbabwe is rolling out a campaign to promote public debate on the mental health of children and adolescents, including through a series of radio talk shows, new content on mental health on its free of access website internet of good things, and a survey on its social messaging platform U-Report.
It is estimated that 60 percent of the mental health cases in the country are due to substance abuse.