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Mental Health Issues, A Cause For Concern In Zimbabwe

By Prisca Manyiwa

Mental health issues have become topical in Zimbabwe due to the rise of gruesome murder cases and other strange incidents that are happening around the country as a result of myriad of social and economic challenges.

The sharp increase in these worrisome cases have left questions within the communities to what can be the cause in relation to mental health status of Zimbabweans who are living in abject poverty.

Joblessness and infidelity issues being the major route cause highlighted on various platforms across the divide, societies are now perplexed with some cases which are defined as beyond human abilities.

In trying to explain the relationship between mental health in medical terms, spiritual perspective, experts in both medical and spiritual field have revealed that there is a thin line between mental health issues in the medical perspective and the spiritual aspect.

“There is a thin line between mental illness and the so called mamhepo (spirits)” said Dr Nemache Mawere a psychiatrist.

Generally most Zimbabweans and Africans at large believe more in the spiritual world than the pure scientific perspective, in most cases, when one suffer from mental illness, they rush to get help from prophets and traditional healers.

“The issue of mental health goes both ways, it’s both spiritual and a health issue in the sense that some challenges factors are spiritual, health and largely due to abuse of drugs.

“We are talking of incidents such as mental health caused by an accident and definitely that one does not have any spiritual connotation but they are also there affected by man-made rituals in the form of witchcraft” said Zimbabwe National Traditional healers Association president, George Kandiero.

He further reviled that some patients are referred to the hospital for scientific treatment and others to rehabilitation when they have been affected by taking of illicit drugs and may also refer the patient to another traditional healer depending on the level at which the patient is suffering from.

A local church leader, Reverend Livias Moyo of the church of Christ , Kwekwe District told Post On Sunday that since time immemorial BC and AD, mental health issues have been regarded as spiritual so as to be addicted to any substance been said to be spiritual affecting the state of the mind.

“As Christians we believe insanity is a curse from God as a punishment for disobedience (Deut 28vs28” he said.

Experts also admitted to that effect that prevalence of mental health cases during covid-19 induced lock-down were due to depression and other social problems and under such circumstances it is highly possible for people to have mental disorders.

Interestingly as a pastor of a rural background, this year alone I have handled seven (7) cases associated with mental health. I prayed for all the 7 and later counseled them of which 5 where mental patients under treatment and 2 were not.

“When I counseled them I later realized that these mental cases were rather social than spiritual. Five widows who are taking care of grandchildren and living in abject poverty while the other two are former military personnel who are suffering from post-trauma.

ZINATHA president also admitted that during times of disasters and suffering people tend to suffer from mental health problems.

“Speaking about the Covid-19 pandemic, definitely when people are stressed and things are not going well, you find that people suffer from mental health issue some suffer from depression and all those other similar symptoms,” he added.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in cases of drug abuse which another cause for mental problem. There has been increase in strange incidents such as the murder case of seven people by a man in Rutendo Redcliff who in some unbelievable circumstances, another incident involves a Gweru man who murdered his wife and children in broad daylight.

In Zimbabwe, mental health issues are governed by the legislation under the Mental Health Act of 1996 and Regulations of 1999.

However, these laws have been under criticism by some experts who argue that there is need for review of the legislation.

Yesterday Norton member of Parliament, Temba Mliswa stood to speak on the increase of drug abuse by youths, both males and females and the old due to various issues stated above and sort government’s respond on the plans it have and even proposed it to be deemed a national disaster.