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Govt acts on workplace mental health

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BY VANESSA GONYE
THE Health and Child Care ministry (MoHCC) has revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic triggered mental health problems at home and workplaces.

To deal with the mental health challenges, the MoHCC, in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO), has set up a friendship bench (FB) to improve access to mental healthcare and psychological support services.

The country only has 19 psychiatrists and 35 clinical psychologists against a population of 15 million.

The training programme, titled MH in the workplace, trains workers on problem solving therapy and interventions to significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Mental health occupational therapist in the Ministry of Health, Brighton Mufakwadziya said: “The ‘MH in the workplace’ intervention focuses on providing employees known as MH champions with skills to screen for common distress symptoms and provide basic care to individuals.”

“It also helps the trained MH champions to identify those in immediate need for clinical care and refer them to designated MH clinicians through the FB. After the MH champions complete their training, they cascade the training within their organisations to ensure more people receive training.”

Friendship Bench director Dixon Chibanda said:  “Mental health in the workplace is a game changer as it will enable us to reach out to more people who need the services in Zimbabwe. Through capacity building of lay counsellors who will create space in the workplace for those in need, our three key pillars of Friendship Bench will be opening the mind, uplifting and strengthening people.”

The programme is also supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation (Norad).

Some 72 MH champions from Econet, NetOne and other companies have since been trained, while 831 people were sensitised about MHPSS and 123 benefited from the problem-solving technique (PST) sessions.

WHO Zimbabwe specialist Debra Machando said mental health challenges at the workplace could lead to premature death, absenteeism and impaired job performance.

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