The government says lack of mental health care at the community level has led to repeated hospitalisation and imprisonment of patients with mental illnesses.
According to the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa, mental patients discharged from psychiatric institutions may end up relapsing when they go back into the community due to lack of adequate treatment, care and support, and are sometimes re-admitted into psychiatric institutions.
As a result, the government is now working towards coming up with various measures to ensure that those discharged from mental institutions have access to appropriate care and support.
The Minister confirmed that the government has partnered Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which has been supporting with forensic mental health services.
The organisation also refurbished the Harare Psychiatric Hospital and Ngomahuru Hospital, trained general nurses in the mental health gap as well as establishing a community mental health model of care in 12 polyclinics and one satellite clinic in Harare.
After operating in the country for 17 years, the organisation is now folding operations, but the government has pledged to ensure the initiatives they started will carry on.
Speaking at a handover ceremony of a Toyota Land Cruiser worth US$30000 and an assortment of office furniture to the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s Mental Health Services Department, MSF Head of Mission, Mrs Abi Kebra Belaye noted that common mental disorders consisting mainly of depression and anxiety disorders are on the increase and there is a need to ensure affected people get assistance at the community level.
Lack of adequate mental health specialists to take care of the growing burden of psychiatric cases is making also effective and efficient treatment difficult.
Most African countries, Zimbabwe included, have a low ratio of psychiatrist or clinical psychologists to the general population.
The average is about one specialist to a million people.
Zimbabwe has twelve registered psychiatrists and 14 clinical psychologists for a population of about 14 million.