Norton, 16 Oct. 2018. Zimbabwe commemorated a belated World Mental Health Day at St Padre Pio Clinic in Norton, in an event that brought together players in mental health, support groups for people with mental health issues, and some patients from Harare Central Hospital Psychiatric Unit. This year’s Mental Health Day was launched under the theme; Mental health and young people in a changing world which focuses on helping young people to be resilient in the face of life changes. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness on mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of better mental health. Mental Health Day is normally commemorated on 10th October every year where countries join together to raise awareness on mental health issues.
Adolescence and the early years of adulthood are a time of change – moving schools, leaving home, and starting work. For many, these can be times of stress and anxiety, and these feelings can lead to serious mental illness if they are not recognized and managed in time. Worldwide, 10–20% of children and adolescents suffer from mental disorders and depression is the third leading cause of mental illness and disability among adolescents globally, while suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. In the African Region, it is estimated that 5% of the population aged below 15 years, suffers from a mental disorder. Half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14 years, but most cases go undetected and untreated, with serious long-term consequences for mental health.
In his remarks, WHO Representative, Dr Alex Gasasira said mental health is fundamental to overall health and for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. He implored the Honourable Minister of Health and Child Care to support the continued training of health workers in the whole country as well as supporting the supply of medicines to make mental health services accessible to all the population. “The integration of mental health into primary health care is a priority for WHO, and we recommend continuous training for primary health-care workers to enable them detect and manage common mental health problems in community settings,” said Dr Gasasira. He also informed the gathering that WHO has developed tools to support parents, caregivers and teachers to build life skills of children and adolescents, to help them cope with everyday challenges. In response to the call to integrate mental health into primary health care by Dr Gasasira, the Honorable Member of Parliament for Norton, Mr Temba Mliswa also pledged to be an advocate for mental health and for the opening of a psychiatric unit at Norton Hospital. “I have spoken to the Honorable Minister of Health and Child Care about taking over Norton Hospital and to open a psychiatric unit at the hospital to serve Norton and other areas close by and he seemed agreeable,” said Honorable Mliswa.
In a speech read on his behalf by the Director, Laboratory Services, Mr Mangwanya, the Honorable Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr. Obadiah Moyo urged families and communities to address the mental health challenges affecting young people so as to reduce risk factors associated with stress. “As we openly talk about hand washing, good nutrition and exercising because they support physical health, we should also do the same for mental health,” he said. He said this requires a whole society approach because there is need for early identification of at risk individuals so that they get assistance early. He also reminded the guests that treatment for mental illness is available for free at all health institutions in Zimbabwe.