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    Monday, 15 October 2018

    GZU to commemorate World Mental Health Day

    Sanganai Kasinamunhu.

    Theme: ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world.’

    10 October is World Mental Health Day. In an effort to raise awareness and commemorate the World Mental Health Day 2018, the Great Zimbabwe University Psychology Department will be hosting a Mental Health Day Public lecture on Friday the 26th of October 2018, at the Robert Mugabe School of Education. We call upon all individuals and interested stakeholders to take part in this very important event. The aim is to draw attention to the relevance of mental health care for everyone, with a special focus on young people since this year’s theme focuses on young people. 
    The World Mental Health Day is a day set aside every year to raise awareness globally about mental health issues. It was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiation of World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), an international membership organization founded in 1948 to advance, among all peoples and nations, the prevention of mental and emotional disorders, the proper treatment and care of those with such disorders, and the promotion of mental health. 
    Different countries and organisations celebrate this day in different ways, making efforts to raise awareness and seek solutions to facilitate the improvement of the mental health of citizens in their countries. In Zimbabwe mental health practitioners including psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors and organisations in mental health, make different efforts in raising awareness and bringing attention to this day. 
    The Psychology department at Great Zimbabwe University, makes concerted efforts at raising awareness about mental health issues and their impact on everyday lives amongst staff and students all year round. This year we have decided to spread the word beyond the walls of our institution. This year’s theme ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world’, is especially relevant in our country where we have alarming statistics of drug related mental health conditions which constitute the majority of admissions in the country’s mental health hospitals. Dr Maramba, who is stationed at Ngomahuru Psychiatric Hospital in Masvingo shares that approximately 62% of patients at the institution are admitted due to drug misuse. A lot of our young people, and adults, are abusing substances without realising the grave risk of mental health disorders they expose themselves to. 
    One of the major barriers to accessing mental health care is the misconception that mental health issues are for the ‘mad.’ The term mental health itself does not draw the attention of the majority of Zimbabweans, to most people, it does not concern us. The names Ingutsheni and Ngomahuru (mental health institutions in Bulawayo and Masvingo respectively), draw in our minds the picture of that ‘mad man’ who roams the streets and deserves to be locked away for the safety of those of us who are ‘sane.’ The idea of mental health itself carries social stigma and shame because we misunderstand it. When advised to seek psychological services, the average person will ask ‘Kuti ndinopenga?’ or ‘Ukuthi ngiyahlanya? believing that mental health care is for the institutionalised only. How mistaken we are. Research shows that 1 in every 4 people will experience poor mental health at some point in their lives. Those individuals in mental health hospitals were at some point in their lives ‘normal’ people like you and I. Why wait until it gets to that point?
    Not only those who intentionally expose themselves to mental disorders for example through substance abuse are at risk. According to the World Federation for Mental Health, ‘Mental health conditions are one of the major groups of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), and are linked to cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as other noncommunicable diseases. There is evidence which shows that if you have diabetes, you have an increased risk of developing depression and if you have depression you have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Research by H. Zirima, a lecturer and registered psychologist at Great Zimbabwe University reveals that 37% of women in Masvingo urban report experiencing depression related symptoms. We underestimate the impact of ill mental health on our lives and underscores the importance of mental health care for everyone. 
    Nowadays we read in our newspapers every other day, of a spouse who murders their partner after a dispute, or a man who murders his friend over a cigarette. We nonchalantly spread via social media, news of men and women who have committed suicide, sometimes even thinking or verbally stating that that could never be me. Many university students fail to graduate due to a range of mental health problems due to academic pressure, substance abuse, sexual and physical abuse, etc with some even resulting in suicides. And even the debatable culture that is spreading of taking pride in being the first to take and spread gruesome pictures of dead bodies strewn at accident scenes. All these are indications of mental health issues, and to me, cries for help, which require the attention of mental health professionals. 
    Many a times you hear of people who consistently visit the doctor with physical pains that appear to have no physiological root, pains that appear to have no explanation. These may be ‘psychosomatic illnesses.’ For example chest pains may be caused by stress. And more often than not people tend to focus on the physical symptoms whilst ignoring the mental causes. There are so many reasons why we should take an interest in mental health and make an effort to improve our own. I learned at Regina Mundi High School in Gweru, whose moto is ‘Mens sana in corpore sano”, meaning ‘A healthy mind in a healthy body’. It meant very little to me at the time but as I have worked in mental health and seen the real impact of mental health problems on actual lives its importance has dawned on me. We cannot focus only on physical wellbeing, because mental ill health detracts from your overall wellbeing. 
    Come and find out more about mental health, how it is relevant to you and how you can access mental health services for you and your loved ones. Stakeholders who wish to play a more active role on the day can get in touch with me on 0735 520 181. We expect to see you there! 
    Sanganai Kasinamunhu is a Psychology Lecturer at Great Zimbabwe University 

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