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More Attention to Mental Health Issues Urged in Zimbabwe


FILE - "The public health is retrogressing," says Dr. Rutendo Bonde of the Zimbabwe Wellness and Lifestyle Institute. As more needs go unmet, "an increasing number of people will be unable to find a suitable facility for support."

FILE - "The public health is retrogressing," says Dr. Rutendo Bonde of the Zimbabwe Wellness and Lifestyle Institute. As more needs go unmet, "an increasing number of people will be unable to find a suitable facility for support."

Anxiety and depression, which health experts say can lead to suicide, are said to be on the rise in Zimbabwe because of the prevailing harsh economic conditions.

Dr. Rutendo Bonde of the Zimbabwe Wellness and Lifestyle Institute says the government should address such silent illnesses. She said public health centers need to be fully equipped in order to deal with mental health issues.

"The private health care is advancing in slow steps, and the public health is retrogressing," she said. As more needs go unmet, "an increasing number of people will be unable to find a suitable facility for support. Hence, we find there is an increase in suicide cases.''

Bonde pointed out that while more resources are being allocated to tackle diseases like HIV/AIDS, very little is being done about problems like depression.

"Stress is one of the major factors which trigger depression, and in Zimbabwe we live in a highly stressful environment," Bonde said. "We find that some people experience despair and hopelessness, leading to depression … and failure to cope sometimes leads to people taking drastic measures, like committing suicide.”

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 800,000 people die from suicide every year and that many more attempt suicide. Suicide was the second-leading cause of death among 15-to-29-year-olds globally in 2012.

Bonde said depression starts “when a person feels they are unable to find solutions for everyday life [challenges]. Then that becomes a compounding factor toward depression and toward stress."

She said many patients with mental illness might shy away from seeking treatment because of the stigma associated with it. But it’s “everyone’s responsibility to take action on behalf of their loved ones, should they exhibit signs of depression, including negative projection, social withdrawal, lack of sleep and care for their personal upkeep.”

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