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WHO flags spike in Zimbabwe depression, suicide cases

by Staff reporter
01 Nov 2023 at 23:27hrs | Views
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that Zimbabwe is grappling with high rates of depression and suicide among adults, surpassing many other African nations.

Mental health institutions have conducted research pointing to socio-economic instability and marital problems as the primary contributors to mental health issues in Zimbabwe. Additionally, WHO noted that individuals living with HIV and AIDS and/or tuberculosis frequently exhibit co-morbid mental health conditions.

According to the global health body, older adults in Zimbabwe experience elevated levels of depression and suicide compared to their counterparts in other African countries. Mental health awareness has only recently gained traction in the country, with a historical lack of budget allocation for mental health services.

Zimbabwe's susceptibility to mental health challenges is exacerbated by socio-economic instability and heavy reliance on psychiatric hospitals, as primary healthcare facilities often lack adequate mental health services. The Mental Health Act, which has not been updated since 1999, also fails to align with Zimbabwe's ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. A shortage of funding for medication, human resources, and mental health promotion further compounds the issue.

A mere 0.42% of the total healthcare budget is allocated to mental health expenditure, with the majority of these funds being channeled into maintaining the country's two psychiatric hospitals. Apart from these facilities, only two other hospitals in Zimbabwe possess in-patient psychiatric units, and there are just seven mental health facilities nationwide. The country struggles with a severe shortage of mental health professionals, with an estimated 18 psychiatrists, 13 psychologists, and 13 clinical social workers to serve a population of 15 million people. The bulk of mental health services are provided by the country's 917 psychiatric nurses.

Suicide cases have witnessed a surge over the past two years, with higher percentages recorded among men compared to women. Research by Macrotrends, an international statistics research platform, indicates that Zimbabwe's suicide-related deaths are notably high, with suicide rates fluctuating over recent years.

In response to the escalating mental health issues, the Allied Health Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe has introduced a three-day mental health "first aider" study course, aimed at mitigating or eliminating mental health-related deaths.

Source - newsday
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