The government has called on citizens to put an end to stigmatization of mental health issues as the country commemorates World Mental Health Day.
Addressing stakeholders at L’Arche Zimbabwe today, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Professor Paul Mavima said stigmatization causes serious mental consequences.
“We all need to bear in mind that stigma and marginalisation does not only affect how people feel about themselves, but it also comes with serious mental health consequences. Due to stigma, persons with mental disabilities may work against effective treatment, support and recovery, and they may even refuse to see a doctor, thereby increasing the duration of untreated symptoms,”
“As a society, we need to refrain from engaging in practices that perpetuate the stigmatisation of persons with disabilities, but we should recognize their contribution, accept difference, encourage disclosure, challenge negative attitudes and behaviour and seek to support and empower them,”
“The days of tying persons with mental disabilities with ropes or locking them up in homes and keeping them in isolation should be a thing of the past,” he said.
Disability in Zimbabwe is commonly associated with witchcraft, evil spirits and breaking traditional taboos.
“The stigma and isolation that mothers experience due to misconceptions that surround mental disability within families and communities, may result in some of them acquiring mental health challenges that in turn result in them abandoning their children with mental disabilities in unsafe places,” said Mavima.
“The role of our Social Workers in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, is to work hand in glove with relevant stakeholders that include some organizations that are represented here, to ensure that children and adults with disabilities including those with mental disabilities have access to all social services, and adequate psycho-social support,” he added.
Mothers who give birth to children with disabilities are often accused of having broke cultural taboos during pregnancy, practicing witchcraft or of having come from maiden families haunted by evil spirits.
Such mothers are often abandoned by their partners or husbands, thereby leaving the mothers to fend for themselves and their children.
“Yes, some mental health challenges in infants may be prevented by ensuring that mothers stick to a balanced diet during pregnancy, or desist from taking alcohol during pregnancy, but some mental disabilities such as autism and Down Syndrome are genetically oriented, hence it may not be the choice or fault of the mother,”
“The bottom line is that young people and adults with mental disabilities alike, do not just want to be integrated but they want to belong, and a community environment that satisfies their desire for belonging is likely to go a long way in enhancing their health and well-being,” said Mavima.
Senator Rejoice Timire is one of the elected officials representing people with disabilities in Parliament said during the pandemic, most people experiences different mental disorders whilst trying to cope with the pandemic.
“2020 was a difficult year as it brought trauma to most of us here. We should try to get psycho-social support and counseling to continue with our lives,” she said.