MHRC advises Govt. to take bold steps in addressing Mental Health Care

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) says government must take bold steps in addressing challenges affecting mental health care by training adequate mental health personnel and making sure that mental health issues are given a priority through allocation of adequate financial resources.

According to a statement dated 11th October, 2021, MHRC observed that it is sad that as a country we have not invested adequately in mental health and as such we are seriously lagging behind in the provision of community-based psychosocial support services, the backbone of promoting mental health.

MentalCare Malawi-UK executive director Gerald Namwaza Banda: We need to tackle the ignorance and also take away the stigma.

“The commission, therefore, calls upon the government to proactively take steps towards addressing challenges towards improving mental health care by training adequate mental health personnel and making sure that mental health issues are given a priority through allocation of adequate financial resources.

“The commission calls for increased research into mental health, in 2020 and 2021, we have noted unprecedented numbers of suicide being recorded in the media and we may never know the magnitude until serious research is conducted in this area,” reads part of the statement signed by MHRC Chairperson, Scader Louis.

”The commission further calls upon the government to ensure that mental health bill that is currently under review promotes all rights especially legal capacity for persons with mental health disorders or psychosocial disabilities.

“The Commission also calls for everyone to participate in the campaign towards improving the mental health sector and also support all those affected with mental health issues.”

According to MHRC, mental health is one of the most neglected areas of public health. About 1 billion people are living with mental disorders.

MHRC says three million people die every year from the harmful use of drugs and alcohol, and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide.

The country’s umbrella human rights body, MHRC further says that Social stigma, discrimination, and human rights abuses of people with mental health conditions or psychosocial disabilities further precipitate the situation of mental health disorders.

”It is undeniable that Covid-19’s impact of people’s mental health has indiscriminately affected everyone. However, much of the effects can be traced in some groups, including health and other frontline workers, students, people living alone, persons with disabilities and those with pre-existing mental health conditions,” reads the statement.

COVID-19, MHRC explains, has exacerbated pre-existing challenges and the lack of psychotropic drugs in the country has been worsened by the pandemic.

“Users of mental health services experiencing longer periods of inability to access medication made worse by the economic inability to access private pharmacies. This has led to an increase of symptoms experienced, relapses, and suicides,” says the statement.

In an interview MHRC Executive Secretary Habiba Osman said mental health care ought to be treated with sensitivity, care and seriousness because “it a very important matter.”

Said Osman. “Mental health is important to everyone and therefore need make sure we treat such important matter with utter seriousness.

“Therefore, I urge the government, the private sector, the clergy and traditional leaders to take a leading role making sure that matters concerning mental health care are treated with seriousness because for any a country to grow it needs people with a healthy mental faculty that function accordingly,” said Osman.

UK-based Malawi mental health charity, MentalCare Malawi – UK executive director, Gerald Namwaza Banda said: “Mental health care is something we, as a country, as a people, need to talk about to each other and with each other.

“We need to tackle the ignorance surrounding mental health illness and take the stigma away from it and crush the stereotypes that comes with it. Let us let everybody know that it is okay to have mental illness and that there is help for it.”

Every year on 10th October, the world commemorates the World Mental Health Day. The overall objective of this Day is to raise awareness and mobilize efforts in support of mental health issues around the world.

The Day also provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to share and discuss their work on what needs to be done to make mental healthcare a reality for people worldwide.

Currently, the world is going through turbulent times of unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During these exceptional times of the pandemic, many people are confronted with psychological problems related to isolation, anxiety, loneliness, frustrations, addictions, insecurities, depression fears and worry.

These are, obviously, the resultant traits of the socioeconomic devastation that covid-19 has caused amongst the global population.

Many have lost jobs or source of income; others have lost loved ones thereby increasing the levels of orphan hood, poverty and destitution at an alarming rate.

The 2021 Commemoration is centred around the theme; ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’.

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