BY YAMIKANI YAPUWA
January 31, Mana: Nkhotakota District Hospital attends to over 600 mentally ill persons every month and a mental health clinical officer has attributed the problem to smoking of Indian hemp.
Khumbo Nyirenda said in an interview recently that the hospital sees 600 to 700 patients monthly.
“In addition, we register 15 new cases every month, implying that we have a huge problem.
“One major cause of mental health disorders in our district is Indian hemp (Chamba). As you know, Nkhotakota is well known for cultivating the illicit herb,” Nyirenda said.
He, however, said the hospital also receives a number of patients with epilepsy, psychosis and mood disorders.
Indeed, the local media often publishes stories about people arrested in the district for being found in possession of Indian hemp.
The media reports show that some people were arrested at roadblocks mounted on the M5 Road after being found transporting large quantities of Chamba to other districts.
A baseline survey conducted recently by Youth Net and Counselling (Yoneco) in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Kafuzira in the district also indicates that drug and substance abuse is the common cause of mental illness in the area.
It is against this backdrop, therefore, that Yoneco rolled out a Mental Health Project in the area to help treated persons’ reintegration in society after noting that some mentally stabilised persons face stigma.
Yoneco Executive Director McBain Mkandawire says the organisation engages mental health stabilised persons in financial literacy because productivity is one of the major factors that make them vulnerable in society after mental illness.
“We realised that there is an increasing need for financial literacy training for the stabilised persons as a way of promoting their well-being and dealing with stigma, abuses and humiliation.
“Mental health disease survivors are considered to be vulnerable because of their financial status in society. Lack of economic assets overshadows the situation of mental health stabilised persons,” Mkandawire said.
During the training, mentally stabilised persons are empowered with knowledge and skills on finance management to help them when engaged in small-scale businesses or employed.