Due to the on-going global pandemic, Coronavirus, the government might have to change the way they handle and treat people with mental health illnesses, a Malawian UK based charity organisation has said.
MentalCare Malawi UK says the government of Malawi needs to make some make-shift legislation and changes to the existing laws that governs mental health care services to ensure that people with mental health issues or illnesses are safe and protected from the risks of harm and that their human rights are fully respected during the pandemic.
Gerald Namwaza-Banda, founding chief executive officer for MentalCare Malawi UK said:”With the Covid-19 scourge rampaging peoples’ lives across the globe, it is, without doubt highly likely that it is challenging for people with mental health problems.
“We appeal to the Malawian government through the ministry of health and population services to look into the best ways to protect those undergoing through mental health issues.
“As the global Corona-virus affliction continue to rapidly sweep across nations, it is inducing a considerate degree of fear, worry, anxiety and concerns in the population particularly for those with underlying mental health issues.
“It is for this reason, therefore that we implore the Malawian authorities to engage an extra gear in ensuring that that people with mental health ailments are protected and that their human rights not abused as they lack a mental capacity to make sound judgements and enlightened decisions and, therefore, at great risk at this time the world is facing turbulent times.”
Namwaza-Banda, a mental health specialist expert, further said that there is a stigma associated with mental ill health – a stigma that involves negative attitudes (and prejudice) and discrimination that refers to negative behaviour adding;
“Stigma may have a number of negative effects. It may lead people to hide their difficulties from others. People are ashamed to discuss their mental health issues with family or friends. Mental health stigma can lead to the exclusion of people with mental health from employment, social activities and from having relationships.
Namwaza-Banda who works with the National Health Services (NHS) as a mental Health professional said the economic cost of mental ill health in Malawi and the rest of the world is incalculable.
“We all have mental health issues and, just like our physical health, it needs looking after. We need protection from the government to ensure that we are safe and secure. One in four of us will experience a mental health issue at any given time,” said Namwaza-Banda who is based in Derby in the East Midlands, England.
Outspoken human rights and social justice campaigner and lawyer, John-Gift Mwakhwawa in a separate interview with Nyasa Times said:” Government has a duty of care towards her citizens and have a responsibility to to protect people with mental health illnesses, especially in a period such as this, where there is a lot of anxieties as regards to Coronavirus. The government must tell the people the truth about the virus and not to cause panic and fear among the people.”
“As a country, we need to review, amend and repeal our laws which deals with mental health so as to ensure that they are in line with the modern statutes and charter of international laws on Human Rights.
“We need new strong laws on Mental health as a main piece of legislation that, which will cover the assessment, treatment and rights of people with a mental disorder ensuring that all people that are detained over mental illnesses must be given urgent treatment for mental disorders as such people are at great risk to harm themselves or others,” added Mwakhwawa.
Health and Population ministry spokesperson Joshua Malango said the government has a Mental Health Policy in place which outlines how to deal with mental health issues and the people who suffer from it.
“We have a policy on mental health which came into effect last year and we use that as a guiding light,” Malango said.
However, Malango could not be drawn to comment on whether or not the policy in place covers on the support the people with mental health problems they can get is a state of emergence such as the present widespread of Corona-virus.
On one hand, the World Health Organisation (WHO) defined Mental Health as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Mental health illness is a major cause of long term disability worldwide and it widely accepted that mental illness ranks highly alongside cardiovascular (heart) diseases, cancers and musculoskeletal diseases.
The Mental health illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, emotions and behaviour, and disrupts the person’s ability to work or carry out daily activities and engage in satisfying personal relationships.
According to Namwaza-Banda, mental illnesses causes disability across a person’s life span saying:” This is why it is important to detect mental health illnesses early so as to ensure that the person receives appropriate treatment and support in time.”
“People who experience mental health issues may face what seem to be insurmountable difficulties and problems that can exacerbate their illness,” said.
About 676 million people are affected by mental health problems worldwide every year.
WHO, on the other hand defines Coronavirus as a disease, which is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan in China and has since spread rapidly, evolving into a full-blown pandemic.
COVID-19 has, thus far, killed 413, 731 people to date since last December.
Coronavirus spreads primarily through close contact with someone who is infected, but it can also spread if you touch contaminated objects and surfaces. There are currently 7, 323, 516 confirmed cases in 213 countries and territories with the fatality rate still being assessed.
In Malawi, there has been 455 cases of Coronavirus reported with four people recorded to have died from the marauding virus and out of 455 only 55 people are reported to have recovered.
Namwaza-Banda, a former journalist, said the combination of mental ill health and Coronavirus is very deadly appealed to the journalists in the country to give mental health reporting a human face.
“Mental health problems involves anxieties and fear just as COVID-19 and this combination provides a dangerous ground for people with mental health conditions as will always have fears and anxieties.
“Our plea, as MentalCare, to the government is to put in place ad hoc structures and measures, both legal and social, to ensure that people with mental health problems are protected not only from COVID-19 but also from manipulation and that are not prone to human rights abuses,” said Namwaza-Banda.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :