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Over 116m Africans living with mental health challenges – WHO

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…Blames COIVD-19, Ebola, others for high toll

MORE than 116 million people are estimated to be living with mental health conditions pre-pandemic across the African Region.

  World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, gave the figure in her message to commemorate the 2022 World Mental Health Day which was held under the theme: Make Mental Health and Wellbeing for All a Global Priority, today.

  Blaming COVID-19 and Ebola virus disease as major contributory factors in an estimated 25 per cent global rise in depression and anxiety, Moeti said World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity to draw attention to Africa’s large and growing burden of mental health conditions, with children and adolescents worst impacted.

  According to Moeti, there is urgent need to strengthen regulatory systems to close the gaps that allow such young people to easily access alcohol, because it contributes to heavy episodic drinking rates as high as 80 per cent among teens from 15 to 19.

  “The situation poses a serious threat to their education, while setting the stage for a lifetime of alcohol abuse, and the associated risks of noncommunicable and other related diseases. Inadequate financing for mental health continues to be the biggest limitation, negatively impacting efforts to expand Africa’s mental health workforce.

As things stand, there are fewer than two mental health workers for every 100 000 people, the majority of whom are psychiatric nurses and mental health nursing aids. With these scarce resources concentrated at large psychiatric institutions in urban areas, people at community and primary care levels are left critically underserved.

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For example, while two-thirds of Member States report having guidelines to integrate mental health into primary health care, fewer than 11 per cent are providing pharmacological and/or psychological interventions at this level.

It is however heartening that up to 82 per cent of our Member States are receiving training on how to manage mental health conditions at primary care level, with up to 74 per cent reporting that specialists are involved in providing appropriate training and supervision to primary health care professionals,” Moeti said.

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