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Zimbabwe, Experts Say Mental Health Sector Too Neglected

  • Tatenda Gumbo

Government and health experts Wednesday admitted that the mental health sector has been neglected for long in Zimbabwe despite the enactment of the Mental Health Act in 1996, the Mental Health Policy in 2004 and the recently launched strategic plan for mental health services designed to effectively implement all the regulations.

Speaking in Harare at the launch of the Zimbabwe strategic plan for mental health services, Health Minister Dr. David Parirenyatwa said there are key issues that must be addressed to tackle mental health in Zimbabwe.

“As a government what we have done today is to launch that implementation policy, from which then derives what activities we will do. One of them is to look at the human resources, how many there are now, that’s a big issue. The next issue is look at what are going to do to prevent more mental illness or mental disorders,” said Dr. Parirenyatwa.

According to the Ministry of Health, the Zimbabwe National Mental Health Policy’s major aim is to harmonize Mental Health activities and improve quality of care of those living with mental disorders.

It provides a framework, within which mental health programs, projects and activities are designed, implemented, monitored and evaluated.

Indications are that Zimbabweans, who suffer from mental health illnesses, are not accessing health facilities or shy away due to the stigmas associated with the health conditions.

Dr. David Okello, World Health Organization country rep said it is important to start looking at health in a holistic manner.

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. To say somebody is healthy, a country is moving toward the healthy direction, you need to look at all that,” said Okello.

Dr. Okello echoed Dr. Parirenyatwa’s sentiments and also appealed to the government to effectively implement its mental health strategy.

“It is our hope that the launches you are going to initiate today, the Zimbabwe strategic plan for mental health services, bring mental health services, bring mental health programs, at the forefront and raise the profile of these services at higher level.”

Winnie Ndoro, a sonographer in a private radiology department, and a person living with bipolar affective disorder said the key to living with a mental condition is to learn and understand how it affects a person on a daily basis.

“Because you are bi-polar, you’ve got ups and downs, when you get something that excites you, you get over excited even if you are on medication, it’s called a roller coaster of emotions, you are up and you are down, but it’s been a hard road, it’s been difficult.”

Ndoro said she decided to speak about her condition in order to tackle the stigma associated with her condition.

She hopes this will do the same to people with the same or other mental health disorders.

“I didn’t put a shell around myself, I was open. I would talk about it at church, talk about it at work, talk about it everywhere, I would just talk about it.”

The Ministry of Health along with other partners is expected to begin implementing its strategic plan that is expected to effectively address issues in the mental health sector.

Experts say with this plan, cases of mental health can be affectively treated and regulated.

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