Lockdown: Mental health challenges on the spotlight

The African Institute of Ending Bullying, Violence and Depression and Suicide (AFRIBS) has called for vigorous mental awareness programs through the media to address mental health issues associated with the COVID-19 lockdown. 

The spread of the global pandemic, coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan, China in 2019, has seen many countries implementing lockdowns as one of the strategies to curb the spread of the virus. 

Zimbabwe is currently only its second week of the extended lockdown a situation that has caused a lot of anxiety and stress among people.  

In an interview with CITE, Founder and Director for AFRIBS Zenani Masuku said the mental health programs will assist people with copying mechanisms during the lockdown period.  

“The first and most important thing is to have awareness programs on radios even on WhatApp so that people at least hear more, not just on COVID-19 but on mental health and if they get to understand why they are mental challenges that they are facing as a result of COVID-19 then they can now adopt coping skills. 

“As an organisation, we are saying at least let us practise self-care, we have to look at the situation that is causing our mental challenges, we are saying at least let us not panic, let us deal with what we have if it is the issue of joblessness are we saying the issue is affecting me alone or the whole country. We try to encourage people not to panic but to take a day at a time and move forward,” said Masuku. 

“We are also encouraging peer support within families lets support each other, seek out for help through WhatsApp and phone calls. If somebody thinks they are now faced with a serious mental health issue then they can approach different institutions which are open.” 

Masuku said the pandemic has harmed the livelihood of many people, a situation that is causing a lot of anxiety. 

 “We have people who have been working in offices, market places, service industry, manufacturing industry and all that, as we know in Zimbabwe at least 90 percent of the working population are self-employed and they have just stopped everything.  At this point of time their savings have been exhausted because they have not been producing,” she said. 

“There are students, grade 7, form 4 and Upper 6, that have been preparing for exams, some had already registered for the June examinations, and we are saying they are suffering from a lot of anxiety, they are depressed and stressed because they do not know about the way forward.”

 She added that issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse are emanating due to the lockdown. 

Masuku also urged companies to start developing mental health policies meant to deal with post lockdown trauma for their employees. 

According to the health ministry, at least one million people in Zimbabwe suffer from mental and neurological disorders. 

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