Wednesday, July 17, 2024

A depressed Nation

Scores of Batswana have reportedly become victims of mental health as government failed to provide psychological support during the outbreak of COVID-19, a study has shown. 

Botswana was listed in the study titled, “Mental Health and Psychosocial Guideline in Sub-Saharan Africa,” as one of the countries that had failed to avail or overlooked issues related to depression in Sub Saharan Africa. 

According to the study which was conducted by Keneilwe Molebatsi, Otsetswe Musindo, Vuyokazi Ntlantsana and  Grace Nduku Wambua it assessed some of the impacts of failure to incorporate mental health into COVID-19  health guidelines that were adopted by some countries in Sub Saharan Africa among them Botswana.

The authors are based at the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Botswana, Department of Psychiatry, Nelson Mandela School of Clinical Medicine, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Durban, South Africa, Selibe Phikwe Government Hospital, Ministry of Health and Wellness, Selibe Phikwe, Botswana, Department of Clinical, Neuro and Developmental Psychology, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands.

With regard to Botswana, the study found that “mostly anxiety brought about fear of the unknown and uncertainty regarding when this will be over, will people still have their jobs and how many people are we going to lose to this disease etc.”

The authors found that in Botswana, the effects of COVID-19 on mental health was that, “Depression tends to co-exist hand in hand with anxiety and this situation is no different. Disruption of daily routines, confinement, fear of unemployment, stopping income generating activities for the informal sector all contributory.” 

The study says mental health experts suggest that mental health of the communities is of concern during this pandemic. The study says anxiety heightened by the fear of contracting the virus and uncertainties due to poor information coming from governments and media. 

“Extended lockdowns, curfews, and loss of work opportunities are impacting the economic livelihoods of many thus influencing their mental health. The potential rise in persons needing mental health services was also an issue of worry as many countries lack the human resource to cater to increased need of persons needing care,” says the study. 

In Botswana, the authors found that, “Mental health is not a priority. The government is focusing on controlling transmission of the virus, protecting the economy, which is understandable, however, mental health could be mentioned more than under the 1% of the time it has come up in press meetings.” 

The study says that mental health during this pandemic was not a priority adding that “The already taxed resources will be put under additional strain due to the rise in mental health needs of the countries during this crisis.”

It was highlighted that some of the mental health needs required at this time are different from what is needed in a stable environment. 

The report found that people felt that the mental well-being of individuals may be addressed by the clarity and consistent communication by governments, which may lead to some assurance that they are taking the necessary measures to deal with the pandemic in the various countries. 

The study called for improved access to avenues where individuals may seek mental health and psychosocial support.

 The researchers said there is need for more awareness on mental health needs that may arise because of the pandemic, a need for clear and structured referral systems that will help in the management of mental health needs and a need for alternative methods of support such as the use of telemedicine or eMedicine to interact with persons in need of psychosocial support.

The study says increased awareness and education for families of those already living with mental health disorders as these times may present adversity to the individuals possibly leading them to a worsened state.

“The blind spot on mental health in policy reforms is evidenced by lack of mental health guidelines in Botswana, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe which shows that mental health is not at the frontline of health regulations and agendas,” the report says. 

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