End Stigma Against Mental Illnesses Says Health Minister

HEALTH and Childcare Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo says Zimbabwe should end stigma associated to those living with mental illnesses to avert suicides.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

Officiating the World Mental Health Day which was themed focusing on suicide prevention, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo Zimbabwe need to start talking about this silent epidemic of suicides.

“The theme for this year’s mental health day happens to be suicide prevention. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 29 after road traffic accidents. And every 40 seconds someone around the world dies from suicide.

“These are very preventable deaths indeed. Suicide is also liked to mental health problems such as depression and substance abuse. There is therefore need to reduce stigma about mental health problems and increase access to mental health services to those who need help in order to prevent death by suicide,” he said.

He encouraged people with suicidal thoughts to talk with family, friends, health workers and counsellors.

The Health Minister also launched the Friendship Bench at the University of Zimbabwe to see students receive mental health interventions from the globally acclaimed organisation.

The launch comes on the backdrop of a worrying trend of university students committing suicide almost every year.

“The Friendship Bench has now been modified for young people and today we will launch the Friendship Bench here at the University of Zimbabwe. It will provide a tailored mental health intervention for college and university students to help young people get access to mental health care.

“Our young people today face constant stresses and challenges happening in their lives and in the world around them. These stresses can lead to emotional distress and thoughts of suicide. It is vital that we raise awareness about this issue and be able to prevent unnecessary loss of life.

“I am encouraging all of us should we find ourselves in emotional distress to visit our health centres for assistance or make use of services provided by such as the Friendship Bench,” Dr Moyo said.

A Friendship Bench official said they have since served over 16 000 clients including 2 000 young people. About  129 suicide cases were recorded between the months of January and March 2019 in Zimbabwe, compared to 91 reported in the same period last year, which shows a 42% increases, a Zimbabwe Republic Police official has said.

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