Let’s unite in combating mental health issues

The Sunday Mail

Tendai Chara

IT has worryingly become common to get reports of both prominent and ordinary people committing suicide.

Ximex Mall dealer Tafadzwa “Boss Pango” Murengwa, Takudzwa Mutaguta (with close ties to chanter Killer T) and Stanley Masaiti, a prominent Marondera farmer and businessman are some of the people that have taken their lives of late.

Psychologists attribute suicide to mental health challenges.

They equally identify abuse (physical, sexual, mental), loneliness, alcohol, drug and substance use as common triggers of suicide thoughts.

There is evidence of a global increase in mental disorders as of 2019 even before Covid-19 exacerbated.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), research has shown that since 2019, mental disorders increased by 48,1 percent between 1990 and 2019.

“When you look at causes for most mental disorders you will find that social, cultural and economic factors have a role to play. We can then add the effects of Covid-19. The WHO indicated an increase in service demand post Covid-19 due to its impact on families and individuals,” Noreen Kudzanai Wini Dari, a community psychologist who is also the Zimbabwe Psychological Association marketing director, said.

She added that suicide cases are now being covered more by the media due to increased awareness campaigns.

“There was little awareness on mental illnesses and such cases were under-reported.  “The figures might also suggest that the economic environment back then was favourable and people were subjected to less economic pressure and stress,” reckons Dari.

“Clearly, there is a huge awakening to mental health issues in the nation. We have certainly come a long way although we still have some ground to cover as we must continue working on solutions.”

WHO list Guyana, Japan, Lesotho, Lithunia, Suriname and Cote D’Ivoire as some of the countries with the highest suicide rates.

Experts opine mental illnesses and suicide are high in developing countries due to limited access to service delivery, poverty and a lack of social protection.


Alcohol, drug and substance abuse has been identified as chief causes of mental health issues, especially among the youth.

Police have since intensified the fight against drug and substance abuse through establishing crack teams.

The crackdown on drug peddlers and syndicates, which is an ongoing process, has resulted in several peddlers being arrested and their bases destroyed.

But it is opined that more needs to be done to win the battle.

Wilson Box, the director of the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network (ZCLDN) made shocking revelations.

“We are currently doing research on drug abuse in the country. From the research, we discovered that there are at least 11 new substances that are being abused of late,” he said.


“The problem is that our laws view those that abuse drugs and substances as criminals. As a result, drug abusers go underground instead of seeking help,” said the ZCLDN official.

“Drug and substance abuse is a public health issue. Calls must be made for drug abusers to come forward and get free treatment. They must not be viewed as criminals. That way, we will effectively fight the scourge.”

Mental health experts argue that several people suffer in silence hence the need to introduce “national counselling programmes”, through the media or community outreach, which will assist even those in the closet.

Cuthbert Nyaruvenda, the president of the Zimbabwe National Practitioners Association, which represents the interests of traditional and faith healers, said there is a need for collective efforts to fight mental health challenges.

“From the traditional healing perspective, there is need for the nation to come together and brew traditional beer to appease the evil spirits that are associated with suicide,” Nyaruvenda said.

He encouraged law enforcers to deal decisively with drug dealers.

“Both traditional and faith healers can treat mental health patients. Corruption is fuelling the trade in dangerous drugs. Those that supply drugs in Harare are known but they are roaming the streets. Parliament must introduce deterrent sentences for those that are caught dealing in drugs and against corruption,” added Nyaruvenda.

Kumbirai Dhliwayo, a former drug addict who went clean and formed the Healing Rain Foundation which works with drug addicts, said there was need to tackle the root cause of drug and substance abuse.

“The question or focus should not be on why we have so many drug dealers all over the country.

“ The drug dealer is simply responding to demand.

“The police must continue to arrest drug dealers but focus should be on changing the people’s mind-set so that they stop using the drugs,” Dhliwayo said.

He also advocated for the introduction of effective policies, awareness campaigns and practical solutions such as proper parental guidance.

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