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Zimbabwe Health Expert Urges Govt to Prioritize Mental Illnesses

A clinic in psychological session being conducted by an indigenous healthcare giver.

The world on Saturday marked World Mental Day with activities meant to raise awareness about mental health issues around the world.

In Zimbabwe experts were warning the government to allocate more resources to sectors dealing with mental illnesses to ensure everyone who’s affected gets treated.

Families generally hide their mentally-ill relatives because of shame while others spend most of their time seeking assistance from traditional healers and not hospitals.

Now experts are saying it is time the government took the initiative further by allocating more resources to activities that will ensure people talk openly about mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression and treatment for those struggling with the conditions.

Reports show that hundreds of Zimbabweans who suffer from mental health illnesses are not accessing the assistance they need.

Mental health expert Dr. Sekai Nhiwatiwa says stigma is a big problem that also needs to be dealt with if people with mental illnesses are to get the treatment necessary to help them get back their lives.

"Mental health issues are often times culturally associated with family curses, leaving those suffering to be neglected and not given adequate treatment timely,” says Dr. Nhiwatiwa.

"We are urging those that suspect they have mental illnesses to visit their nearest health facility to get treatment in the early stages of the condition. But we find that most mental health patients are taken to the tradition of spiritual leaders first before going to hospitals, a situation we would like to see addressed.”

Ordinarily, says Dr. Nhiwatiwa, mental health patients should be getting free healthcare at mental health patients but because of the country’s declining economy, clinics and hospitals are failing to provide adequately for patients.

"The treatment aspect is a challenge as some of the medications are not readily accessible and maybe out of reach for patients to buy independently,” she said.

Dr. Nhiwatiwa says mental illnesses are common in both children and adults but adds company closures, job losses and related issues have seen the numbers of Zimbabwean adults with mental illnesses rising.

"So families should look out for some of these common symptoms, which include growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities, prolonged depression (sadness or irritability), social withdrawal and suicidal thoughts among others," said Dr. Nhiwatiwa.

World Mental Health Day was marked under the theme ‘Dignity in Mental Health’.

Interview With Dr Sekai Nhiwatiwa
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