By Michelle Chifamba
A Zimbabwe psychiatrist says the country’s mental health care facilities have been filling up with patients because of stress-related conditions induced by the coronavirus pandemic.
And a religious leader has called on the government to prioritise mental health issues in its disaster response policies.
“People have become anxious and desperate, gripped with fear and uncertainty to the extent that they have resorted to pastimes that they believe are therapeutic, such as impulse-buying.
“Others are always on social media in search of the latest information on the virus and many are confused by the varied conspiracy theories surrounding the disease and vaccinations,” says Dr Walter Mangezi, psychiatrist and mental health expert.
Mental health issues arising as a consequence of the deadly coronavirus pandemic have emerged as a global cause for concern. Many are unable to cope with the involuntary way of life that they have been forced to adapt to.
Along with company closures, breadwinners have lost jobs, while students have lost significant amounts of time away from school while families have lost those near and dear to them.
At the same time, restrictions on working conditions, social gatherings and traditional grieving after the death of close relatives, have taken their toll on people’s mindsets.
Dr Mangezi says many mental health care clinics have been filling up with patients presenting stress-related conditions that can be put down to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“People are worried about the nature of the pandemic and the changes that it has brought. As a result of the uncertainty of the pandemic, people who did not have prior history of mental health are having challenges in getting sleep or concentrating on their normal daily lives, while conditions for those that have a history of anxiety have been exacerbated by the news of Covid-19.”
‘buried like dogs’
Pastor and musician, Apostle Paul Sambo, says church leaders are worried about the nature of new diseases emerging as well as the regulations enforced to contain the spread Covid-19 infections, including church gatherings.
“The Covid pandemic has greatly affected all facets of society including the church. In fear of the pandemic, grieving when people die has been reduced to a non-event under the current conditions.
The fact that people no longer have a befitting send-off from the church or their community, but are being buried like dogs… affects the mental health of the bereaving families.”
He refers to the effect of the coronavirus on mental health as a ‘silent genocide’ that is killing a significant part of Zimbabwe’s able-bodied workforce, and laments that government has yet to prioritise such a serious matter.
“Issues of mental health should be prioritised within the government of Zimbabwe’s disaster response plan because the pandemic affected so many people in a lot of different ways and those people are in need of help.
“There are people who lost homes, jobs, relatives, and those children who could not go back to school … these are key areas that need to be addressed as the country devises ways and means to address the pandemic,” says Apostle Paul Sambo.