World mental health month: Mental health in an unequal world

Achievement T. Mateveke 

The world celebrates mental health month every October. Commemorations are done every tenth day of October each year. For this year a theme was created to stress how it affects everyone in the world. And this year’s theme is “Mental Health in an Unequal World”. Mental health expresses the well-being of the mind of a person. The Well-Being can be affected by several issues from stressors, substance abuse to genetic causes and it is not limited to this only. Mental illness constitutes of disturbance of normal brain function (kurasika pfungwa). Common mental health problems include Substance Induced Psychosis, Depression, and Anxiety etc. To explain further causes include Psychological, Bio-psychosocial and Sociocultural influences. Psychological influences include overthinking, stressful life events/ traumatic and financial instability. Bio-psychosocial influences include: brain damage e.g. accidents and sexually transmitted diseases like Syphilis. The other aspect is Sociocultural influences like substance use in which imitation of behaviour is done through social learning which can be triggered by unfair life circumstances. These include death of a loved one, idleness, boredom and lack of employment which can propel consequences.

Currently substance abuse has topped the ladder with about 90% of admissions in Psychiatric hospitals. And the number one drug is Crystal-meth. CRYSTAL methamphetamine is a drug people take by inhaling through the nose, smoking it or injecting it with a needle. Locally it has street names like Guka, mutoriro or red/white diamond. Youth between the ages of 18-40 abuse it in almost all major towns of Zimbabwe. It is associated with serious health conditions, including memory loss, aggression, psychotic behaviour and potential heart and brain damage. Also when one becomes psychotic (kurasika pfungwa) insomnia is exacerbated (kushaya hope) Some who are affected can spend days without sleeping, hallucinating (kuona nekunzwa zvisipo) Substance Induced Psychosis then develops which leads to hospitalization and long-term treatment on anti-psychotic drugs, which are expensive. And this has become an economic burden on affected families and the country as a whole.

It is suspected that due to COVID 19 lockdown when there was no work in developed countries it was produced massively and drug peddlers exported to other regions including Africa through drug trafficking. As it reaches our local streets it has become a menace and difficult to combat its selling thus its use has grown to become a pandemic in its own. A majority of youth who spent the COVID 19 Lockdown idle ended up being hooked onto it. From testimonials from survivors it is understood that peddlers first give unsuspecting new users the drug for free without buying until they are hooked onto it. Later they would eventually buy daily promoting addiction thus continuity of use.

Its management and prevention can be successful when helpful ways of dealing with triggers to use like learning or being taught how to cope with stress, anger management and drug refusal skills. Prevention can be successful when one stays occupied (finding a productive life which is fulfilling, avoiding places where drugs are found, and finding someone to talk to when stressed). Many helpers are available who include, psychologists, counsellors and other mental health professionals. Research has expressed the importance of family and societal support. By celebrating mental health month the public can be easily be made aware of the importance of mental wellness and effects of unhelpful behaviours like substance use.

Author: Achievement T. Mateveke Clinical Psychologist Ngomahuru Psychiatric Hospital 

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