Mental illness a burden to society

FamCast News
a month ago

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‘Mantšali Phakoana

Lesotho has one of the highest rates of mental health issues in the world, and the impact of mental illness on public health can be devastating.

From anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, these issues can lead to serious health problems, social isolation, and even premature death.

Mental illness is a health condition involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behaviour. It can be associated with distress and or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.

According to the United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) in Lesotho mental health affects 20.8 percent of the country’s population. It also estimates that 90 percent of the world’s population deals with mental health problems and among them 49 percent are elderly people while 13 percent are children.

The organisation further estimates that close to one billion people have mental health disorder.

In an endeavour to uplift mental health awareness and support across the country, Mental Health for Public Health Lesotho, in partnership with the Embassy of the United States in Maseru, has launched the Mental Health for Public Health Project.

Launched on April 26 and funded in part by the United States department of State’s Alumni Engagement Innovation fund, the initiative marks the commencement of a ground breaking initiative to address mental health challenges in Lesotho.

 The founder of the Mental Health for Public Health initiative and an alumna of a U.S government funded exchange programme, ‘Makamohelo Malimabe says the project aims to empower community leaders, traditional and spiritual healers, religious figures, and clinicians with the tools and knowledge needed to identify mental health concerns and combat stigma.

She indicated that, over the next six months, the project team will conduct comprehensive training sessions in all the country’s districts, reaching a diverse range of participants from different sectors of society.

Malimabe expressed her gratitude for the support received from the U.S. Embassy and outlined the objectives of the project.

She notes that the project will empower communities and transform mental health care in Lesotho.

“This milestone marks the beginning of a journey to empower communities and transform mental health care in Lesotho,” said Malimabe.

“Through the support of the U.S. Embassy and our partners, we are committed to addressing the pressing issue of mental illness and stigma in our society,” she indicated.

For his part, the U.S Embassy Maseru public affairs officer, Charles Blake, emphasized the importance of partnership in addressing mental health challenges.

“The U.S. Embassy is proud to partner with Mental Health for Public Health Lesotho in this important initiative.

“Together, we can make a profound impact on the well-being of Basotho individuals and communities,” Blake said.

Speaking at the launch, Nthati Phakoe, founder of non-governmental organisation Tunasafiri, underscored the importance of seeking help for mental health issues.

“It is okay to not be okay. We encourage people to seek help when they need it,” Phakoe said.

She urged people to work together to raise awareness about mental health, highlighting the importance of accessible and affordable treatment for those in need.

Mental health should be a concern for everyone.

Phakoe noted that there was need to address mental health issues openly including discrimination, saying it is vital in a society striving for holistic well-being.

“By working together, we can build a more compassionate and informed approach to mental health care in Lesotho. The mental health for public health seeks to fight misconceptions about mental health,” she pointed out.

Meanwhile, Bothoba-Pelo Foundation, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to soothing the hearts of girls, women and youth with mental health issues that have been influenced by socio-economic and global changes, is also spearheading awareness in the country.

The organisation’s public relations officer, Selloane Nyakane, says they offer free psychological support to their clients, advocacy on mental health issues and refers them to institutions that offer help beyond Bothoba-Pelo’s capacity.

“In Lesotho, mental health continues to be a crisis which needs a collective approach to be eradicate or reduced.  There are numerous challenges in accessing mental health treatment and people face stigma. Limited financial resources hinder patients from accessing mental services, which are already in short supply anyway.

“Another issue is that mental health awareness sometimes doesn’t meet those in dire need, hence the need to prioritise mental health,” Nyakane said.

The organisation will host a community outreach at Ha ‘Mantšebo on May 18 to raise awareness.

Nyakane explained that the purpose of the outreach is also to empower youth, provide them with life skills, anti-crime, psychological support, awareness and lobbying.

“Due to a long history of global socio-economic crisis, many girls, women and youth have been pushed to poverty, leading to stressful home environments.

“This would be our second time at Ha Mantšebo. We have a project run by the youth, this will also be a good opportunity for us to be evaluating and monitoring their progress,” she added.

The founder of Mendy Care, a private mental health facility in Butha-Buthe that assists others in overcoming obstacles and attaining mental well-being, Limakatso Motake, said the government has the power to make a sustainable effect regarding the continuous battle against suicide and depression while meeting those without the financial muscle halfway.

“Unfortunately, there are numerous challenges in accessing mental health treatment in Lesotho, as evident from the alarming suicide statistics.

“Despite facing stigma, we encounter several problems, including shortage of mental health care services and limited financial resources to afford expensive treatments.

“Consequently, it is crucial to consider suicide prevention in Lesotho as a public and social health objective, prioritising it over the traditional approach confined to the mental health sector. The government should play a pivotal role in helping to address these issues,” she said.

The government must allocate resources towards a diverse range of initiatives on mental health, she added.

These initiatives should include provision of counselling services, support groups, and extensive campaigns aimed at increasing awareness at both community and national levels.

WHO states that promotion, prevention and interventions on mental health works by identifying the individual, social and structural determinants of mental health, and then intervening to reduce risks, build resilience and establish supportive environments for mental health.

The organisation further says promoting and protecting mental health at work is a growing area of interest and can be supported through legislation and regulation, organisational strategies, manager training and interventions for workers.

“Reshaping the determinants of mental health often requires action beyond the health sector and so promotion and prevention programmes should involve the education, labour, justice, transport, environment, housing, and welfare sectors,” the organisation adds.

The health sector can contribute significantly by embedding promotion and prevention efforts within health services; and by advocating, initiating and, where appropriate, facilitating multi-sectoral collaboration and coordination.

“Suicide prevention is a global priority and it is included in the Sustainable Development Goals. Much progress can be achieved by responsible media reporting, social and emotional learning for adolescents, and early intervention.

“Promoting child and adolescent mental health is another priority. It can be achieved by policies and laws that promote and protect mental health, supporting caregivers to provide nurturing care, implementing school-based programmes and improving the quality of community and online environments,” WHO reports.

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