ZIMBABWE has introduced a national program for Mental Health and the Zimbabwe Mental Health Investment Case with the aim of improving policy, advocacy, financing and the upholding of human rights, as well as scale up evidence-based interventions and services for people living with mental health disorders.
By Patricia Mashiri
Mental health disorders include substance abuse disorders and neurological diseases. The strength of the special initiative is based on establishment of evidenced based mental health treatment packages mainly for the treatment of substance use disorders, decentralization of mental health services, establishment of child psychiatry units and increase in mental health funding.
Speaking during the launch, ice President and Minister of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), Dr Constantino Chiwenga said this initiative was launched in other other five countries namely Bangladesh, Jordan, Paraguay, Ukraine and the Philippines.
This special initiative for Mental Health entails conducting a mental health investment case. In essence, mental health investment provides quantification of the costs of mental health conditions to the health sector and the national economy, as well as benefits of scaled up action.
“It includes return-on investment analysis that compares the current costs of mental health conditions in the country with the estimated health and economic returns that implementing a set of cost-effective interventions in the short to medium term,” said Minister Chiwenga.
He added that mental health investment case also involves an assessment of the current national mental health system, which enables to identify the most appropriate feasible mechanisms for scaling up mental health promotion, prevention, and care in the country.
“It is common cause that, the special initiative has coincided with the worldwide increase of mental health problems due to COVID-19 pandemic. Zimbabwe has not been spared by this pandemic. Moreover, the repercussions of the Cyclone Idai are still having a significant impact on Zimbabwe. The negative mental health effects of Cyclone Idai are still with us, where more than 270 000 people were affected by the cyclone, 341 people killed and many more missing.
“Excessive grief, depression and anxiety were among the most frequently reported mental health problems in the cyclone aftermath. There is the therefore an increased need to reach out to these people with the ever-needed mental health and psychological support.”
He also said that drug abuse among the youths was an issue which needed to be addressed as it acts as a deterrent to life as well as a factor affecting mental health.
Ms Maria Ribeiro, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Zimbabwe said the country has played a great role in achieving and scaling up universal coverage for mental health.
“The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to an increase in the mental health issues because a lot of people lost employment, fear of dying, deaths and a rise in gender-based violence. This launch is a positive to note. We would like to appreciate generous support of donors,” Ribeiro said.
Meanwhile Dr Alex Gasasira, the World Health Organization Representative praised the Zimbabwean government for such a great initiative.
“The Ministry of Health and Child Care have taken inclusive participatory role in investment in mental health. They are the champions of Non-Communicable Disease (NCDs). The donors have contributed greatly in these initiatives,” said Dr Alex Gasasira.