An independent study has shown that around 22-30 percent of the patients accessing health services in Malawi’s facilities have a mental health condition including depression leading to suicide and other mental disorders.
The study shows that about 50 percent of mental health conditions begin by the age 14 among the majority of Malawi’s population, which is largely young.
The Connect Plus Resource Institute (CPRI) conducted the study as part of an initiative to mobilize individual and collective actions in support of mental health and wellness in the country.
The report shows that 173 people died by suicide between January and September 2021 in while on the globe scene, three million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide.
The findings are contained in the report titled “The State of Mental Health in Malawi”, which CPRI prepared for the Parliamentary Committee on Health.
The report defines mental health conditions as those involving changes in thinking, emotions, or behavior or a combination of these.
“Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors,” reads the report in part.
According to the report, mental health issues remain largely neglected and underfunded in Malawi despite some visible strides made in the last decade or so, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic further compounding the situation for many.
Stigma, lack of mental health literacy, cultural and religious beliefs, limited number of qualified mental health professionals and affordability of services limits access to much needed services are some of the highlighted barriers towards enhancing mental health services.
“Prevalence of risk factors in the country such us poverty (over 60 percent live below poverty line), unemployment and underemployment, sexual and gender based violence, natural disasters, childhood trauma, maternal mental health, chronic diseases i.e. AIDS, cancer etc,” it says.
CPRI Chief Executive Officer, Dennis Mwafulirwa, in an interview on Wednesday, emphasized that Malawi needs to strengthen its mental health literacy, including adopting suicide prevention week in September and mental health awareness month in October as annual national initiatives.
“We should enact mental health bill including establishment of a Mental Health Commission. Further, we need to develop a national suicide prevention strategy,” he said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :