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Artists lobby for mental healthcare improvement

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BY TENDAI SAUTA

BULAWAYO-BASED artists last week commemorated the World Mental Health Day in style by committing to lobby for mental healthcare improvement through art.

In the midst of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, the commemorations were held virtually, courtesy of National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) in Bulawayo.

In an interview with NewsDay Life & Style after the dialogue, NGZ Bulawayo director Silenkosi Moyo said: “The visual arts is fraught with a culture of isolation, irregular income, travelling for exchange programmes to places where the artist is unfamiliar with the language and culture. All these affect the internal balance of artists, thus affecting their mental health.”

“There is a need for partnerships with academic institutions to collect reliable data on mental health and other key issues affecting visual artists.

“This will be relevant for developing strategies and mechanisms towards social cohesion in the sector and in the community.”

Moyo, who is also acting regional director for the Matabeleland Arts Galleries, said the workshop made artists realise that they needed each other and should work as a team after the doctor explained that some of the daily events contributed to mental health challenges.

“As artists we need to be mindful of this culture and find support systems that will help us avoid mental disorders or deal with them properly should we get affected,” she said.

A representative of First Mutual Health Tatenda Simango, urged artists to live responsible lives, adding that common mental health challenges were due to stress, depression, anxiety disorders, trauma-related disorders, alcohol and substance abuse.

“Mental health affects everyone and not just those in institutions. Worrying is normal, but if left unchecked it affects our mental health,” Simango said.

“Artists need to work together, this goes beyond sharing ideas, but noticing changes in behaviour and character.

“This could be the early signs of depression. All it takes sometimes is asking how your colleague is and this could save a life.”

During the workshop it also emerged that the routines in the visual arts sector such as working in isolation, unstable income, travelling to exchange programmes and fairs, attending exhibitions at night and general perceptions about artists affect mental health.

Artists were encouraged to be conscious of behavioural changes that signal mental health problems and to take note of the way they approach some people.

Among the artists, who attended the workshop, were resident and non-resident artists like Voti Thebe, Ishmael Singo, Nomvuyiso Mabi, Dumisani Ndlovu, Luzibo Moyo and Nkosikhona Nkomo.

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