Two thirds of children in Zimbabwe have experienced violent discipline and are vulnerable to mental health challenges
Harare, 19 May 2022 – Abuse, neglect and other adverse childhood experiences are the main preventable causes of poor mental health, UNICEF said today on the World Action Day for mental health.
Mental health challenges might well impact on many children and adolescents in Zimbabwe as several forms of violence against children are prevalent in the country. More than two thirds of children in the country experience some form of violent discipline and over a third of girls suffer from sexual violence before their 18th birthday.
The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures have exacerbated protection risks among children and adolescents, contributing to increased mental health challenges. School closures and the loss of learning opportunities for more than 4.5 million children in Zimbabwe have also impacted on the mental health.
The Government has adopted various legislation and regulations to organize the delivery of mental health care in Zimbabwe, including the Mental Health Act and Mental Health Strategy, as well as the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support guidelines recently developed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care. Moreover, the Government of Zimbabwe with the support of its partners has also rolled out a Special Initiative on Mental Health, thereby recognizing the importance of mental health.
In response to the COVID-19 induced psychosocial distress, the Government of Zimbabwe with the support of UNICEF and other partners also mobilized and built capacity of health practitioners to offer psychosocial first aid support. The psychosocial support has been included in the assistance provided in the COVID-19 centres in the country. Moreover, Zimbabwe produced sensitization material on mental health which was broadcast on radio and television.
We congratulate the Government for the initiatives taken and the work done on mental health. We look forward to continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and its partners to further increase attention and support for mental health care for children and adolescents,” said UNICEF Representative Dr Tajudeen Oyewale.
The real scale and nature of mental health challenges faced by children and adolescents in Zimbabwe is still unknown. Addressing the mental health issues with children and adolescents will need more research allowing the gathering of evidence to better understand the issue and respond effectively.
UNICEF calls on all concerned stakeholders for increased attention for the mental health of children and adolescents, and for more investments in parenting programmes as parents and caregivers can provide much needed safety and security for children and adolescents to flourish and thrive.
Dr Oyewale: “Mental health issues particularly when it relates to children and adolescents are still a taboo in many societies, also in Zimbabwe. Breaking the silence around mental health is urgently needed.”