Chimanimani records spike in mental health issues

BY VANESSA GONYE

PEOPLE living in Cyclone Idai-affected areas of Chimanimani and Chipinge are increasingly showing signs of mental health problems emanating from their experience during the disaster that befell them beginning of this year.

Speaking to NewsDay on the sidelines of a workshop on psychological issues for journalists in Mutare recently, Regional Psycho-Social Support Initiative (REPSSI) programme manager, Johnson Matenga said they had dealt with rising numbers of psychological issues linked to the March events, with many being triggered by the current rainy season.

“Many of them are experiencing flashbacks in this rainy season especially when it’s about to rain, they remember what happened. They lost their loved ones — parents, friends, relatives. A lot of work has been done by organisations to get them psychologically stable though it is a lengthy process. Interdenominational churches have moved in to help ease the burden and we are still working with them, through support groups to get an understanding of what is affecting them and providing solutions to their problems,” Matenga said.

He said recovery was a process for those affected though more needed to be done to ensure stability and a decrease in the number of psychological problems associated with the disaster.
“There is need for more rehabilitation and engagements with affected communities for them to recover and build back their lives. Most of them haven’t had closure and it may be a problem until they know what happened to their loved ones,” he said.

A psychologist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the events that took place during the cyclone impacted more on children, particularly the 14-15 age group which is mainly affected by mental illnesses.

In early March, heavy rains and flooding linked to Cyclone Idai killed hundreds of people, displaced nearly 87 000 of them and affected nearly 870 000 others.

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