Zambia: rolling out mental health and suicide prevention services

Pharmacist Jérôme Kanyika shared his opinion on the worrying rise in suicide cases.

He strongly believes that easy access to prescription drugs is partly responsible for the increase in suicides and suicide attempts.

Indeed, some pharmacies sell prescription drugs potent enough to kill an adult human being when taken in excess, like everyday over-the-counter drugs.

To a large extent, we believe that his observations have merit and are worth considering.

However, there is a darker side that is not talked about enough related to suicides – mental health.

The unfortunate deaths recorded have exposed the inefficiencies of Zambia’s national health system, which is often neglected and underfunded.

The many suicides in the space of a month put a spotlight on mental health.

Nearly half a dozen teenagers lost their lives because of their dismal failure in 12th grade.

Apart from these deaths related to exam stress, we have had even more suicides among the adult population weighed down by emotional stress and financial burdens like debt who believe the only way out is to commit suicide.

This clearly shows that a large number of our population have varying degrees of mental health and addictions issues that are not being addressed by our health care system.

While many suicidal and mentally ill people would like to get help, the availability of private and public therapists is very restrictive.

Currently, Clinic Six at Lusaka University Hospital has only two psychiatrists, while a session with a private therapist will likely cost between K250-600 per session.

Those who can afford private therapy sessions find that highly recommended practitioners are fully booked Monday through Friday, underscoring the number of people who need help.

However, it is not only a question of having enough psychiatrists in public health establishments.

To underscore the shortage of skilled mental health care providers, some patients have complained that when they have contacted certain therapists, they tend to walk away from therapy and advise patients to also consider employing the services. of clerics.

This tactic is the wrong approach because those seeking salvation would go to church and not to a therapist’s office.

Also, the price of drugs usually prescribed to manage illnesses of a mental nature are expensive and not stocked in public hospitals.

These are some of the glaring inefficiencies in our health care when it comes to mental health disorders.

Many people today are struggling with life issues and experiencing symptoms of depression without knowing how to deal with these challenges.

Free therapy sessions at public health facilities that match clients with mental health experts based on their needs should be provided.

The expansion of mental health and suicide prevention services across Zambia must be rolled out.

The stigma associated with seeking support for mental health issues must be challenged.