By Steven Godfrey Mkweteza

Ministry of health and population has expressed concern over the country’s high mental health illness rate most especially among the youth and challenged stakeholders to fully participate in intervention initiatives to reduce the figures.

Speaking during the opening of the two day national conference on mental illness services for SADC and COMESA countries in Blantyre, the director for mental health illness in the ministry of health and population services Dr Emmaculate Chamangwana described the mental illiness rate as’ stubbornly and unacceptably high and worrisome.

Chamangwana said despite efforts to curtail the trend, Malawi still has a long way to go to tackling numerous mental health illnesses that also in turn, contribute to high levels of suicide cases.

“The problem is that many people do not report cases in good time because of ignorance and the fear for stigma and discrimination among the society. This is (a) worrisome situation since it also leads into increased cases of suicide.

“This is a big problem for our country growing economy because it affects mostly the youth who are the leaders as they fail to participate effectively in development initiatives,” said Chamangwana.

Chamangwana’s sentiments come at a time when the country is awash with cases of young people committing suicide mostly due to disagreements in love affairs.

Meanwhile, Victoria Tores, a mental health expert said since the adoption of the world health organization resolutions in 1988 and 1990 which aimed at improving mental health services in the world, mental illnesses continues to be regarded as an abandoned concept particularly in African countries including Malawi.

“Among all health challenges facing Africa, solutions to mental health issues are least developed and prioritized by policy makers. Even the few countries in Africa that have adopted theses resolutions, mental health programs have been unsatisfactory,” she said.

Tores, who is also the representative of the officers in charge of the African union southern Africa regional office, observed that mental health is not given a priority in the developing countries such as Malawi due to factors such as lack of resources among others.

The national board for certified counselors (NBCC) in collaboration with the African union southern Africa regional office (AU-SARO) organized the conference which aimed at influencing and maximizing scarce public resources and support in the provision of the best possible care for mentally ill.

According to the recent World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, over 800,000 people die of suicide annually as a result of mental illness, translating into 40 people per second most especially the age bracket of 15-28.

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