Mental Health Matters: Empowering Tanzania’s Well-Being Revolution

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Mental health is a critical aspect of overall well-being, yet it remains a significant challenge in Tanzania and across Africa. Key findings from the WHO World Mental Health Report launched in June 2022, shows that, in 2019, 1 in 8 people globally had a mental disorder, making approximately 970 million people.

Additionally, 1 in 100 deaths globally resulted from suicides, with more than 50% of the cases occurring before 50 years. Suicide is the fourth most prominent cause of mortality among 15- to 29-year-olds. Childhood sexual abuse and bullying contributed considerably to the loss of active life due to mental health. People with mental illness are susceptible to widespread stigma and misinformation and may lose life 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population.

UNICEF Taking a Stand Against Child Sexual Abuse: Interfering, Intruding, and Intervening to Protect Our Innocent Stars

During the first National Mental Health Dialogue, Mr. Ousmane Niang, the UNICEF Representative, emphasized the crucial importance of focusing on the mental well-being of children and adolescents.

“Mental health risks can arise at any stage of life, but they are particularly damaging when experienced during sensitive developmental periods, especially early childhood.”

Mr. Niang cited examples such as harsh parenting, physical punishment, and bullying as factors that undermine child health and contribute to mental health conditions. He called for collaborative efforts to strengthen the collective response to mental health and facilitate a transformation towards improved mental well-being for all.

People with mental health issues are likely to have poor work production and low academic performances at school. Once this person gets married, there are low chances of having a healthy relationship with their spouse due to the trauma experienced in childhood. A leader who has mental disorders can hardly level up to guide through and accomplish the goals designed.

Breaking Generational Mental Health Cycles: Heal for Wellbeing

Mental disorder creates gaps in multiple aspects of life. It gets worse for a person with mental stability as they are at risk when associated with people who have mental health challenges. Getting in a relationship with a person dealing with mental issues who has not yet healed exposes the other spouse to developing similar mental challenges. If two individuals with mental issues have children, they are to become innocent victims of unhealed trauma of their parent’s issues.

Mental breakdowns create a generational rundown of mental problems from one generation to the next. As people seek medical advice on how to control hereditary health disorders to break the chain, it is also important to do the same for their mental health.

As a person takes time to treat and heal from physical wounds on the outside, it is also important for people with mental disorders to make time for treatment. The medical assistance provided by specialists such as psychotherapists will help a person heal for individual wellbeing and for the sake of others around them.

Tanzania faces numerous challenges in providing adequate mental health services:

  1. Availability of Mental Health Facilities: Tanzania has a scarcity of mental health facilities, even in urban areas which makes the situation worse for people in the rural areas. The limited number of therapists, psychiatric hospitals, clinics, and trained mental health professionals hampers access to quality care for individuals experiencing mental health conditions.
  2. Stigma and Discrimination: Stigma surrounding mental health remains a pervasive issue in Tanzanian society. Misconceptions, cultural beliefs, and social attitudes contribute to the marginalization and discrimination faced by individuals with mental health conditions. Stigma acts as a barrier to seeking help and receiving appropriate care. Hon. Ummy Mwalimu acknowledged that mental health has long been neglected due to stigma fueled by misinformation. She emphasized the importance of breaking the silence and engaging in a national conversation about mental health, accompanied by concrete proposals for action.

To enhance mental health services in Tanzania, the following strategies can be considered:

  1. Increased Investment: Adequate funding for mental health services is crucial. Governments should prioritize mental health in national health budgets, allocating sufficient resources for infrastructure development, human resources, and training programs. Government spending on mental health globally, not excluding Tanzania, is still well below the recommended US$2 per person, with mental health not featuring in national health insurance schemes. This dialogue should come out with clear recommendations on how we can include wellness services into our national health insurance scheme
  2. Awareness and Education: Comprehensive mental health awareness campaigns can help challenge stigma, raise public understanding, and encourage individuals to seek timely care. Education initiatives should target schools, communities, and healthcare professionals to promote early identification and intervention.
  3. Collaborations and Partnerships: Collaboration between government bodies, healthcare providers, NGOs, and international organizations is vital for capacity building, resource mobilization, and program implementation. Partnerships can help leverage expertise, funding, and knowledge sharing to strengthen mental health services.

Revolutionizing Mental Health in Tanzania: Combating Stigma, Improving Access

The state of mental health services in Tanzania requires urgent attention. It is imperative combat stigma, and integrate mental health coverage into health insurance schemes.

By adopting a multi-faceted approach, combining community-based initiatives, primary healthcare integration, and increased investment, Tanzania can take significant strides towards improving services.

Collaboration between stakeholders, alongside comprehensive awareness campaigns, is crucial to destigmatize mental health and ensure accessible and quality care for all Tanzanians.

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