Cases of mental illness among young people are increasing at an alarming rate, with Chitungwiza Central Hospital revealing that over 60% of its mental patients are youths between the ages of 15 and 24.
By Phyllis Mbanje
What is most peculiar about these cases is that the bulk of them are not linked to any genetic disorder, but a result of drug abuse which has become rampant among young people.
“It is true. Over 60% of our patients in the mental ward are young people, mostly teenagers,” said the hospital’s public relations officer Nyaradzai Tasaranarwo. She said abuse of substances was one of the major causes for this problem, which is not only prevalent in Chitungwiza, but countrywide.
“They use drugs like broncho [BronCleer], Zed and cannabis,” Tasaranarwo said.
Tasaranarwo said the reasons far the abuse were varied, but for the out-of-school youths it was due to unemployment.
“Many do not have jobs and really have nothing to do, but to indulge in drug abuse. There are no recreational facilities to keep them busy,” she explained.
For the school-going age, it was mostly peer pressure and also lack of recreational facilities to keep them occupied during school holidays.
“All these housing projects are taking up all the space and no one is bothering with facilities for the young people,” said Tasaranarwo.
Then there is the issue of children with parents who are in the Diaspora.
“Most of these children lack supervision and parental guidance and the parents at times over-compensate with financial resources,” Tasaranarwo said.
The drugs are mostly popular at the infamous nude/pool parties where drug peddlers have a ready market.
“There are now what are called ‘mad Sunday’ parties where the young people strip, abuse drugs and engage in all sorts of mischief. Again, it is mostly these children with parents in the Diaspora who convene at these gatherings,” said Tasaranarwo.
Mental illness in Zimbabwe affects over 1,5 million (13%) and yet it still has the least of attention and limited resources.
Lack of awareness and understanding of the disease has heightened stigma and created barriers to proper diagnosis and care of those suffering from the disease
Largely, the disease is linked to witchcraft and patients are often denied medication and are tied to trees or taken to traditional healers.
Suicide has become one of the manifestations of mental disorders and many people have lost their lives after failing to get a proper diagnosis of the illness.
The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 800 000 people die from suicide every year and that many more try to end their lives.