The importance of investing in mental health

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Global Courant 2023-05-08 17:03:22


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Mental health is a critical part of overall health and well-being, yet it is often overlooked and underfunded in many countries around the world, including Zimbabwe. The Government of Zimbabwe recognizes the importance of addressing mental health issues. On April 20, 2023, the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), hosted a dinner to disseminate the Mental Health Investment Case Report. The event brought together key stakeholders including UN agencies, donors and business organizations to discuss the importance of investing in Zimbabwe’s mental health services.

“Investing in mental health is essential not only for tackling economic challenges, but also for promoting overall health and well-being. Mental health is closely linked to physical health and tackling mental health problems can lead to better outcomes for other health problems,” said Professor Jean-Marie Dangou, WHO Country Representative in Zimbabwe, in his opening address. “Treating depression, for example, can improve outcomes for people with chronic conditions such as HIV, tuberculosis, diabetes and heart disease,” he added.

Ms. Danai Charambeni, speaking at the event, courageously shared her personal experience of living with bipolar affective disorder, a mental illness. She emphasized how essential mental health awareness is crucial to reduce stigma and promote understanding. “Many people with mental illnesses face discrimination and social isolation, which makes it difficult for them to access the care and support they need. By raising awareness and promoting understanding, we can help reduce stigma and ensure that people with mental illness receive the care and support they need to live fulfilling lives,” she said.

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Dr. Debra Machando, WHO Mental Health Technical Officer in Zimbabwe, gave an overview of Zimbabwe’s Special Mental Health Initiative. “Mental, neurological and substance use are major challenges in Zimbabwe, and conditions such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, epilepsy and alcohol use are major causes of morbidity and mortality,” she said.

Mental health problems pose a dual challenge to Zimbabwe: human suffering and an emerging public health burden with significant social and economic losses. These challenges include a financial burden on the individual with the condition, their families, and the health system. Challenges also include lost work productivity due to premature death, missed workdays (absenteeism), and reduced work performance (presenteeism).

Dr. Florence Baingana, WHO’s AFRO Regional Advisor on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, provided an overview of Zimbabwe’s Investment Case for Mental Health. “Investing in mental health now could bring Zimbabwe $175 million over the next 10 years and $689 million over the next 20 years. The productivity gains Zimbabwe could gain from investing in mental health interventions exceed the costs of the intervention packages,” she said.

Acting now could reduce the burden of mental health problems in Zimbabwe. The investment case findings show that investing in evidence-based, cost-effective mental health interventions from now to 2041 would yield both health and economic benefits.

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In her closing remarks, Dr Devora Kestel, Director of WHO Headquarters for Mental Health and Substance Use, praised Zimbabwe for the significant progress the country has made in strengthening mental health services. She stressed the importance of other UN agencies in supporting Zimbabwe’s efforts to meet its mental health needs. “For example, the FAO could play an important role in controlling highly dangerous pesticides to reduce suicide rates in Zimbabwe,” she said.

WHO’s recent dinner to disseminate the Mental Health Investment Case Report is an important step in encouraging more investment in this area and promoting understanding of the importance of investing in mental health today to deliver tremendous returns to be achieved in the next 10 to 20 years.

Zimbabwe conducted its first-ever Investment Case for Mental Health in 2021 and 2022. First, it provides an assessment of the current mental health situation in the country, including challenges and opportunities for the development of the mental health system. Second, it presents economic evidence of the attributable, avoidable burden associated with a number of important mental, neurological, and substance use disorders. Intervention costs, health gains, and economic benefits were estimated for clinical interventions for six major mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, and alcohol use disorder) and two population-based interventions (a pesticide ban and a universal school-based social- emotional learning intervention). The report concludes with recommendations for operationalizing the findings of the Investment Case.

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Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) – Zimbabwe.

This press release is issued by APO. The content is not checked by the African Business editors and none of the content has been checked or validated by our editors, proofreaders or fact-checkers. The publisher is solely responsible for the content of this announcement.

The importance of investing in mental health

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