Government must prioritise mental health

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EDITOR —A general survey in our communities reveals that the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn have impacted many people’s mental health.

Simply put, mental health is sometimes used to mean an absence of a mental disorder and it affects daily life, relationships and even physical health. During this period, it is likely the mental health burden will increase as measures taken to slow the spread of this virus, such as social distancing, some businesses still closed may lead to greater isolation and potential financial distress to business owners.

Covid-19 has impacted different sections of society, with the most affected being marginalised communities (slum dwellers, refugees, and daily wagers).

Migrants and refugees who happen to have high prevalence of psychiatric illnesses, especially depression and live a poor quality of life, also face discrimination, stigma and exclusion.

This may have further been jeopardised by the lockdown and the increased loss of jobs during Covid-19 and yet earlier distribution of food to support the poor and vulnerable in major urban areas like Harare excluded refugees and migrants.

This is because in order to receive food you had to present the national ID, which refugees don’t have. Not only did they face associated conseqeunces of lack of food like starvation and malnutrition, but also anxiety, stress, exclusion and depression.

Loss of jobs makes the poor people unable to make ends meet and this has added on their frustration and mental pressure, leading to social, functional impairment and projected increased rates of suicide. With the above reports, how much more are those whose life is solely hand-to-mouth been affected psychologically?

First fear then stress due to economic downturn. Pessimism ought to be high in these group of people and it cannot be a surprise if suicide rates increase due to depression.

Many people are expected to fall back to poverty as this pandemic continues to bite. Interestingly, poverty is
one of the major contributers of ill mental health.
P Jakarasi

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