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Mental health a neglected crisis

2022-06-30  Paheja Siririka

Mental health a neglected crisis

Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula has called on the continental community to increase investments in the provision and promotion of mental health programmes and services as the lack thereof could create a setback in the progress made.

Shangula stated this at the second joint high-level continental seminar on the right to health and social protection in Africa in the capital this week.

“It is critical that as we discuss matters of access to health and social protection, specific attention must be paid to what I have termed, neglected crises of mental health, as well as domestic and gender-based violence,” he said

The minister added that this crisis has the potential to greatly erode progress made on health, human right and social protection.

“We must prioritise the promotion of mental health, continue to promote and enact progressive laws, develop policies and action plans for reproductive health, economic empowerment, political emancipation of women and ending all forms of violence against women and girls,” he stated.

He added that there is a need to hold hands and forge ahead to end all forms of harmful practices that erode the commendable strides made so far on many aspects on this front.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Namibia is among the countries with a high suicide rate in the world. During the 2016/2017 financial year, the health ministry conducted a National Study on the Prevalence of and Interventions in Relation to Suicide in all regions. 

 The overall aim of the study was to gain an in-depth understanding of key social, economic, environmental and cultural issues around suicide and attempted suicide, and to provide information on the prevalence of fatal suicides and non-fatal suicidal attempts. It further unearthed the prevalence of suicidal ideation, causes of suicide, knowledge of suicide prevention and treatment efforts, attitudes towards suicide, as well as the types and effectiveness of suicide prevention and treatment efforts. 

 A National Task Force on Prevention of Suicide was established, and a draft National Strategic Plan on the Prevention of Suicide (2020/21-2024/25) was developed based on the following recommendations of the study: 

- Development of a policy for suicide prevention, treatment, management and coordination. 

- Mobilising more resources to prevent suicide. 

- The enhancement of partnerships and collaboration with the private sector. 

- Strengthening of suicide prevention programmes. 

- To use printed and electronic media sources, such as social media, radio and drama. 

- To strengthen the suicide reporting system by the police. 

- To develop a surveillance system and M&E systems for suicides and attempted suicides. 

Consultations with different stakeholders (Debmarine; Lifeline/Childline) was done to support suicide prevention initiatives in the regions.

All 14 regions conducted suicide awareness campaigns through media coverage (newspapers, radio and TV); school programmes; community awareness and empowerment; workplace awareness campaigns.

Shangula noted that access to and availability of healthcare services to rural and vulnerable communities are provided through a network of Primary Health Care facilities where community-based health workers are deployed across the country to serve as promoters and as a link between communities and health facilities.

2022-06-30  Paheja Siririka

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