World Health Organisation (WHO) has vowed to continue supporting Zimbabwe’s mental health programs targeted at children and adolescents.
In a statement to mark the World Mental Health Day, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said more than 116 million people in Africa were already estimated to be living with mental health conditions pre-pandemic.
“Suicide rates remain particularly concerning, as are the exponential rates of alcohol use and abuse among adolescents as young as 13 years of age.
We need to urgently strengthen regulatory systems to close the gaps that allow such young people to easily access alcohol, contributing to heavy episodic drinking rates as high as 80% among teens from 15 to 19. The situation poses a serious threat to their education while setting the stage for a lifetime of alcohol abuse, and the associated risks of noncommunicable and other related diseases.
“Inadequate financing for mental health continues to be the biggest limitation, negatively impacting efforts to expand Africa’s mental health workforce. As things stand, there are fewer than two mental health workers for every 100 000 people, the majority of whom are psychiatric nurses and mental health nursing aids. With these scarce resources concentrated at large psychiatric institutions in urban areas, people at community and primary care levels are left critically underserved. For example, while two-thirds of Member States report having guidelines to integrate mental health into primary health care, fewer than 11% are providing pharmacological and/or psychological interventions at this level,” said Dr Moeti.
“On World Mental Health Day today, let us all commit to working together to deepen the value we afford to mental health, to reshape the environments that negatively impact mental health, and to strengthen the care systems to make mental health care accessible to all Africans,” he added.
Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe have been supported to complete mental health investment cases. These provide a valuable base from which to make the case for increased investment in this neglected aspect of our health systems.
Mental illnesses are among the leading causes of disability in young people with at least 20% having a known psychiatric condition globally. Scholars agree that one of the leading causes of disability in young people aged 10-19 is mental health disorders.
Suicide rates are highest in the age group 15-24, and this is the second leading cause of death after maternal issues. Mental health challenges affect learning as well as work and usually lead to alcohol and substance abuse. This then leads to reckless behavior leading to HIV and sexually transmitted infections which are high in this age group.