Positive response to mental health excites Caring Hands

Caring Hands Center Limited is excited that a lot of patrons to this year’s Lilongwe Music Festival enthusiastically visited their pavilion to learn more about mental health services of which this non-profit organization promotes its awareness.

Caring Hands decided to partner with the organisers of Lilongwe Music Festival, whose theme was mental health awareness, gender based violence and stopping the stigma — that took place from October 28-31.

Caring Hands Director, Christine Mhone

The NGO’s Director, Christine Mhone said it was such a pleasant surprise to see a lot of people visiting their pavilion and after sensitization sessions on basic understanding of mental health, 99% of the sessions turned into counselling sessions.

“Initially, the patrons would visit our stand out of curiosity and from the sensitization they started to realize that they have been going through mental health or gender based violence without actually realizing it,” she said.

“This proves to us that there is more need for mental health awareness in the country. From the general reaction we got from most people was that they did not know that such services existed.

“We were pleased that most of the patrons wished they had known earlier of our existence at the festival as well as of our existence.”

Mhone added that mental health is one of the most pressing concerns for public healthcare systems worldwide, saying studies have identified this growing concern as the second leading cause of disability and premature mortality — measure of unfulfilled life expectancy — across the world as from a report by Murray & Lopez of 1996.

“CoVID-19 has exacerbated cases of mental health. For example, in Malawi what we would call extreme cases of mental health like suicide cases increased by 57% in 2020 as a result of loss of hope in dealing with problems resulting from the pandemic.

“The police recorded that in 2020 records from various police stations show that in 2019 during this period, 116 people killed themselves while 182 people committed suicide in 2020 — an increase of 57% increase.

“Looking at the trajectory, the figures are likely to go higher in 2021. Out of these figures 92% men are killing themselves with 8% being women. — this is a great concern to all of us.”

The objective of Caring Hands is to promote a society in which everyone can benefit from good mental health and to restore hope to individuals, especially young people going through post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other forms of mental health issues.

It is also to help affected people to realize their full potential and have greater control over their lives to ultimately contribute positively to their communities.

The newly established NGO, Lifest Limited, was formed with the aim of improving and realizing the lives of Malawian citizens through delivery of basic services in areas of mental health counselling and gender based violence prevention.

This Caring Hands partnering with the new NGO to carry out joint implementation of activities towards enhancing mental health education within communities across Malawi.

“Lilongwe music festival is just one of the activities towards achieving the goals of our partnership. We look forward to more activities ahead, taking cognizance that most victims do not know what to do or where to seek help.

“Some had fear of opening up to anyone about their issues and some did not understand that what they were going through was mental health or GBV.

“The other crucial thing was that most people are afraid to seek help because of the stigma and cyber bullying that comes from the society once one is associated with mental health.

“Some of the effects include; stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, partying too much than usual, suicidal thoughts,” Mhone said.

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