More investments needed in Mental Health: WHO

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By BEATRICE MAISERA

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that it is working with governments to review mental health legislation and related policies, to build capacities using the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (MH-Gap).

The MH-Gap is a task sharing strategy where primary health care workers are trained and then supervised in managing common mental disorders.

Zimbabwe is one of the six countries selected to be part of the WHO Director-General’s Special Initiative for Mental Health to strengthen these services.

This also comes after an assessment of the country’s mental health services was carried out in 2019 to come up with a framework that responds to the nation’s needs.

During today’s World Mental Health Day commemorations, held under the theme “Move for Mental Health: Let’s Invest”, WHO country representative for Zimbabwe Dr Alex Gasasira said mental health was one of the most neglected conditions the world over.

He added that, the commemorations had presented an opportunity for Zimbabwe to raise awareness of the actions stakeholders were carrying out to provide quality mental health services.

According to Dr Gasasira, Zimbabwe is one of the six countries selected to be part of the WHO Director-General’s Special Initiative for Mental Health.

“Before Covid-19, mental health was a big burden on our health and now with Covid-19 it is much more important that we give mental health the attention it requires,” Dr Gasasira said.

Locally, WHO has funded the training of over 300 health frontline workers to be able to detect mental health illnesses timely and provide necessary interventions.

It also provided psychosocial support services to the survivors after the Cyclone Idai hit parts of Manicaland, Masvingo provinces last year.

In her message to mark the day, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti urged governments to invest more towards mental health services.

“This investment is urgently needed. Globally, one in four people will be affected by a mental disorder at some point in their lives, and in the WHO African Region, government expenditure per capita on mental health is less than 10 cents.

“Most mental health services are paid for directly by patients and their carers. For low-income households and other vulnerable groups, the cost of this essential care can cause financial hardship. In working together to attain universal health coverage, we must ensure people affected by mental health issues are not left behind,” said Dr Moeti.

The pandemic has exposed health care systems gaps in many countries, Zimbabwe included, with health experts calling for increased funding towards improving mental health care services.

Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) Mental Health Deputy Director Dr Sacrifice Chirisa said that the pandemic has exposed, created and unravelled a lot of mental health issues to everyone across the globe.

“As we commemorate this day we are really pushing now for serious investments into mental health care because we have seen that when it is not taken care of and crisis hit, people are really affected. This year we are really calling for government, private sector to really consider and acknowledge mental health as a priority.

“When you look at mental health programming within Zimbabwe, traditionally like anywhere else in the world, it has been poorly funded over the years. Our psychiatric hospitals are dilapidated, and we have very few specialised cadres,” he said.

 

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