HARARE – As the economy continues to tumble, many Zimbabweans are now unknowingly suffering from mental illnesses that could only get worse, a leading a psychiatrist has warned.
David Mukwekwezeke, a senior resident medical officer at Parirenyatwa hospital said in an opinion piece that although the incident may be purely coincidental, medical research corroborates the rise in mental illness.
In the past month, Zimbabwe has been rocked by uprisings and social unrest as citizens air their grievances towards a failing government.
First to spark the unrest was riots in Beitbridge which resulted in the burning of a bonded warehouse, destroying property worth millions.
The unrest was followed by a chain of protests against police roadblocks, vice president Phelekezela Mphoko’s lengthy stay at Rainbow Towers and a stay away by government workers.
According to 2015 ministry of health statistics, there are approximately 91 390 mentally ill patients in Zimbabwe.
The country has two dedicated mental hospitals in Zimbabwe, Ingutsheni in Bulawayo and Ngomahuru in Masvingo, with other hospitals having units for mentally ill patients.
“It is blatantly clear that the economic hardships, pervasive comments by the ruling elite and a multitude of other events currently happening are psychological stressors which continue to replicate in our psyche both collective and individual and this will ultimately lead to dysregulation of mood, thought and or behaviour,” Mukwekwezeke said.
Last year, government launched a four-year strategic plan that seeks, among other things, to guide the implementation of the mental health policy of 2004 by harmonising activities and improving the provision of drugs.
Mukwekwezeke said there are revelations by seasoned psychiatrist Dickson Chibanda which indicate that about five million Zimbabweans or 40 percent of the population suffer from some form of mental illness, compared to 1,3 million of 2015.
He added that coupled with the poor state of mental health services in a country, with less than 10 psychiatrists, the country is headed towards a collapse as some leaders also exhibit signs of mental illness.
At the launch of the four-year strategic plan, Health minister David Parirenyatwa said economic hardships and drug abuse were pushing up the incidents of mental illnesses.
Parirenyatwa also said there were a limited number of psychiatrists with Ingustheni only having one doctor instead of eight, Ngomahuru having none but requiring five doctors while Parirenyatwa and Harare hospitals which are supposed to have 20, only having 10 psychiatrists.-Daily News