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Depression a yoke for young Zimbabweans: Unicef report

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WHILE Zimbabwe is fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, 27% of young people between the ages of 15-24 have reported depression, a Unicef report says.

NYASHA CHINGONO

 Zimbabwe is among 21 countries which reported heightened concerns over mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic. Of the 21 countries, Cameroon recorded 32% cases, where young people either reported feeling depressed or having little interest in doing things.

 Redundant and stuck at home, most young people were prone to depression, the report, titled The State of The World’s Children 2021, notes.

“At a time of great concern over the mental health of young people during the Covid-19 pandemic, the findings provide an interesting insight into young people’s own feelings,” part of the report reads. Unicef says the numbers represent the perceptions of young people themselves, not diagnosis of depression by health officials.

Zimbabwean youths were not spared by the pandemic as schools and recreational facilities were shut down month on end.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has raised concerns about the mental health of a generation of children. But the pandemic may represent the tip of a mental health iceberg — an iceberg we have ignored for far too long.

“The State of the World’s Children 2021 examines child, adolescent and caregiver mental health. It focuses on risks and protective factors at critical moments in the life course and delves into the social determinants that shape mental health and well-being,” Unicef says.

 Unicef has called for a comprehensive approach to promote good mental health for every child and protect vulnerable children. While the country is fighting the pandemic, children have been the most affected as they feel the ripple effects of loss of income and economic depression.

 Unicef acknowledges that while mental health issues were heightened by the pandemic, lack of data gathering was extremely limited.

“A lack of data gathering and routine monitoring means the picture of young people’s mental health status and needs in most countries is extremely limited,” the UN agency said.

 Health experts say the Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated mental health issues and stress-related illnesses, amid fears that the impact of lockdowns will go beyond mere economic disruption. While the pandemic stretched the country’s health facilities due to the failure to invest in the sector, mental health issues have been relegated to the periphery as attention turned to the pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic and attendant difficulties have resulted in an increase in mental health problems. Experts are concerned that mental illnesses are not getting the attention they deserve, as communities struggle to cope with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With mental health issues escalating, Zimbabwe has an acute shortage of psychiatrist with only 17 psychiatrists to cater for a population of 15 million people, highlighting the government’s failure to prioritise mental health support.

The country also has a few public mental health institutions, which do not even provide support for conditions like stress.

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