The grief and grievances for those suffering from mental health problems are largely overlooked by both health and social sectors.
In every street, in every corner, we find those suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders. They are silent victims of neglect and abuse experiencing human rights violations across the globe. Those we called our friends, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters in the past, today have become our enemies without committing any crime.
Depression is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in Zambia, alongside other neuropsychiatric disorders such as those relating to drug and alcohol abuse. Stigma attached to mental illness, the prevalence of HIV, high unemployment and socio-economic difficulties all significantly increase the risk of mortality. At a global level, over 300 million people are estimated to suffer from depression, equivalent to 4.4% of the world’s population.
Although mental health constitutes a large number of disease burdens in developing countries, it is largely overlooked and given inadequate attention.
It is in this context that THET is working hard to help those facing mental health challenges, among other global health issues. As part of their work they have provided funding for the Mental Health Literacy and Improved Patients Safety Empowering Communities Project run by the NHS Highlands – Chipata General Hospital Partnership.
Located in the eastern part of Zambia is Chipata Central Hospital. The hospital is the biggest referral Centre in the province and is well known for its specialized treatment of mental health services. Like any other hospital in low income countries, Chipata Central Hospital suffers from huge medical demand with limited financial resources that put mental health in the periphery of priorities.
People can recover from mental illness but traditional beliefs and cultural practices have led to a persistent belief that mental conditions are untreatable, and this in turn has led to the marginalization of the issue in the public domain. The stigma and limited public knowledge diminishes grassroots demands for mental health policy and service developments which are weak and poorly implemented. As a result traditional medicine and spiritual management are the most common forms of treatment. Thus the need for the project is apparent.
The main aim of our partnership is to empower communities and patients to take action for better and safer mental health by creating positive change in:
- Perception, attitudes and understanding of mental illness,
- Improving levels of safety and support by health institutions and local communities
- Providing relevant mental health educational materials delivered appropriately and creatively to communities deprived of contemporary communication channels
We also acquired bicycles to be used by community volunteers and as a social enterprise, to provide greater access to creative Arts, explaining mental health and helping to disseminate more accurate information to communities regarding mental health.
I have met so many people through the partnership and have seen the positive impact that reaching out and empowering communities on mental health literacy can have. It is increasingly clear that supporting such projects in any way possible can help overcome the challenges mental health is facing.
People with mental health problems, deserve your attention. Together we can overcome.
Project Coordinator - Zambia
Mental Health Literacy and Patient Safety: Empowering communities.