Mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and loneliness, which health experts say at times lead to suicides, are said to be on the rise in Zimbabwe due to the prevailing harsh economic conditions.
Health experts, including Dr. Rutendo Bonde of the Zimbabwe Wellness And Lifestyle Institute, say the government should address these silent illnesses.
Dr. Bonde of the Zimbabwe Wellness And Lifestyle Institute says more resources are being allocated to tackle diseases like HIV/AIDs with very little being done about silent killers like depression.
"Stress is one of the major factors which trigger depression and in Zimbabwe we live in a highly stressful environment and with that there is social breakdown of social networks and traditional coping mechanisms and everybody is caught up in the hustle and bustle and as such we find people experience despair and hopelessness leading to depression,” said Dr. Bonde.
"It's this hopelessness and failure to cope that sometimes leads to people taking drastic measures like committing suicide," she added.
She says public health centers need to be fully-equipped so they can deal with mental health issues as many more people are getting affected by such illnesses.
"The private healthcare is advancing in slow steps but progressively and the public health is retrogressing and that puts a burden of unmet needs and an increasing number of people will be unable to find a suitable facility and to find a suitable professional to get support from and hence we find there is an increase in suicide cases,'' said Dr. Bonde.
World Mental Health Day is commemorated annually on October 10th and this year the spotlight was on the provision of mental health education, increasing awareness and advocacy. The theme for this year was "Dignity in Mental Health."
Asked about the major causes of depression, Dr. Bonde said, “It has to do with the ability of the individual to deal with the day to day issues and challenges of everyday life and when a person feels they are unable to find solutions for everyday life then that becomes a compounding factor towards depression and towards stress."
Dr. Bonde said although some mental health patients may shy away from seeking treatment due to the stigma associated with the disease, it is each and everyone’s responsibility to take action on behalf of their loved ones should they exhibit symptoms of mental health illnesses like depression.
"Most people going through depression display consistently negative projections you may be looking at the same situation but someone else will see it as half full but for someone depressed its half empty.
“Other signs are social withdrawal, where a person was more outgoing at family events they tend to withdraw from those events. A person may also exhibit lack of care for their personal upkeep and be unkempt. This also includes lack of sleep. These are some of the early signs of depression," she said.