COVID-19 Causes Rise In Mental Health llnesses

MENTAL health cases have been on the increase due the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which has stalked the world for more than a year, mental health experts have said.

By Patricia Mashiri

Speaking during a Mental Health and Awareness webinar, Dr Sacrifice Chirisa, a Psychologist and CIMAS General Manager Health Care Services said the COVID-19 pandemic exposed Zimbabwe’s lack of preparedness  to deal with mental health issues.

The coming in of the pandemic exposed us that we are not ready to deal with mental health issues. The pandemic is bringing a lot of mental health issues like anxiety, depression and paranoia among others and we do not know when this will end.

“I was one of the first people to catch the virus and when you have it people could not visit. People used to throw things for me at the gate because of the fear that they will also catch the virus. It has an effect when you are sick you begin to imagine whether you are going to make it or not. We also witnessed an upsurge in the use alcohol and drugs because people were confined in one place. They could no longer move like they used to because we were locked up in one place,” Dr Chirisa said.

He added that they are raising awareness on vaccination to dispelll myths and misconceptions.

“We are pushing the vaccination agenda as there has been mistrust, misinformation and misconceptions about the vaccines causing more stress on people as they know longer know what to do. Therefore we need to work together and take mental health issues seriously. There is need to train more mental health specialists so that people get more information on it and they will also help demystifying myths surrounding mental health.”

Professor Dixon Chibanda, Director of the African Mental Health Research Initiative (AMARI) said there was need to stop stigmatization when dealing with mental health issues.

“If a person is presenting with any mental health symptom we should address whatever problem the person is facing. The approach needs community help regardless of where you are. When dealing with mental health issues the patient knows better how they want to be helped.

“We should mind our language when dealing with mental health issues so that the affected people will be comfortable and open up. Stigma should stop,” Professor Chibanda said.

Mental health needs concerted effort and commitment as many people end up losing their lives because of lack of support from the surrounding communities.

Meanwhile Dr John Mangwiro, the Deputy Minister for Ministry of Health and Child Care in his speech which was read on his behalf by Dr Patience Maunganidze, Deputy Director Mental Health in the Ministry of Health and Child Care said the mental health care has full commitment from the government of Zimbabwe and it was important to keep on informing and educating people about the subject.

30% of people using primary health care facilities in Zimbabwe suffer from common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Untreated common mental health disorders can affect the outcomes of priority primary health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, hypertension and diabetis.

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