Talking about mental illness still taboo – Kavetuna
The low turnout in Oshakati at the commemoration of Mental Health Day is attributed to a lack of understanding of mental health issues and testimony to the ongoing discriminating against people suffering from poor mental health,
Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services Juliet Kavetuna said on Monday.
Kavetuna said the low turnout is a typical and reminiscent of the stigma around HIV in previous years. However, she gave assurances that the health ministry will continue to educate and create awareness about mental health issues in our society.
One in every four people is said to be suffering from mental health problems and most people will experience psychological ill health at some stage in their lives, whether this takes the form of depression or psychosis, drug-dependence, anti-social behaviour, schizophrenia, or suicidal tendencies.
According to the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA), of the 4.7 percent of the total population recorded in 2011 as living with disabilities, persons with mental disabilities account for 12.9 percent of that figure and 72 percent of persons with mental disabilities are based in the rural areas.
Speaking at the same occasion Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said only a small percentage of mentally disordered individuals are receiving appropriate evidence-based health care.
“This situation is attributable to various factors, but the most important ones include limited availability of services and ill-informed belief systems about the causes, as well as the treatment of mental disorders,” said Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
The prime minister said persons with mental health issues should be empowered and their needs incorporated into national development agendas. “A key challenge in the treatment of mental disorders is to change the prevailing mindset within the community that people with mental illness lack the capacity to make meaningful decisions about their lives,” she said.
It was noted that in budgetary terms the current and medium-term expenditure framework have set aside resources for the construction of mental health centres in various regions so as to develop comprehensive, preventive, rehabilitative and decentralised community-based mental health services.
Saara-Kugongelwa Amadhila said there is a need to review both the Mental Health Act and the National Policy for Mental Health of 2005 to ensure that national efforts to deal with mental health issues remain relevant and aligned to the country’s high-level international commitments.
Also in attendance on the day, Governor of Oshana Region Clemens Kashuupulwa appealed to the local community to support those suffering from mental issues and to ensure they receive prompt treatment. He also appealed to local residents to desist from consulting traditional healers to treat their medical problems, saying it will only make things worse.