Modernize traditional systems of social support to reduce mental health

Zomba mental hospital
  • One in eight people have mental disorders: Human dev report

The recently released United Nations Human development report (HDP) said challenges people faced in the world  in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a rise in stress and mental disorders in people.

Titled “Uncertain times, unsettled lives: shaping the future in transforming the world” it shows the uncertainties have perpetuated different kinds of stress with one in 8 people being diagnosed with mental disorders.

Dr. Wilfred Sumani Director of Academic affairs at Catholic University of Malawi described it as a worrying trend especially among young people noting the country registered increased cases of suicide last year orchestrated by too much media presence and social media use

He observed this makes young people become dependent on what people say about them on these platforms.

“If there is a negative comment there, they carry that the whole day, they think they’re useless, they’re worthless. So yes COVID-19 with the enclosure that it brought about maybe not so much in Malawi because where are the facilities of enclosure in the first place?

lecturr
Sumani: We can fall back on our traditional systems where we have elders who have wisdom but also social networks

“But given the paucity of mental health facilities, maybe we can fall back on our traditional systems where we have elders who have wisdom; but also social networks that can help us support one another especially when we feel down, family support.

“In rural areas, this happens a lot that’s why you’ll not find a lot of mental health issues in rural areas because they have these traditional systems for supporting one another. One is sick everybody goes there; one is down everybody comes to raise them up. Maybe we could try to modernize those traditional systems of social support in order to reduce mental health issues in the absence of mental health facilities in the country”.

Malawi only has one public mental hospital at Zomba and a private facility St John of God in Lilongwe and Mzuzu catering for mental health issues.

According to the HDR, mental distress can become an obstacle to human development under certain circumstances.

To avoid this, policymakers as well as people themselves can take action and prevent situations that cause mental distress, mitigate crises and build psy­chological resilience without leaving anyone behind.

St John
Offering mental health services: St John of God

The first layer of policies to tackle the cycle of distress and constrained human development consists of pre­venting distress.

It recommended building of safe environments through strong national institutions and international cooper­ation with socioeconomic policymak­ing.

The report further proposed income support to significantly decrease mental distress of children and young people living in a household enabling people to filter good-quality information out of abundant information during the digital age

 “With universal access to mental health services as well as other culturally aligned resilience building and healing approaches, people are often able to absorb mental distress and thrive in the context of uncertainties.

“Many of these services could be offered within existing social struc­tures, such as schools and community centres. There is a wide variety of mental health and well­being interventions, but some have proven especial­ly effective for distress” reads the report”

 

Gladys Nthenda

With over 10 years reporting experience cutting across TV, Radio and online, Gladys Nthenda loves communicating on society's highs and lows especially where she is able to make a difference to sections that are vulnerable.

A tourist at heart; she also likes different genres of music.

 

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