Pharmacists Jerome Kanyika has shared his opinion on the disturbing rise in suicide cases.
He strongly believes the ease with which prescription drugs can be accessed is partially to blame for the rise in suicides and attempted suicides.
This is because prescription level drugs strong enough to kill a fully grown human when taken in excess are being sold by some pharmacies like day-to-day over-the-counter medicines.
To a large extent, we believe his observations have merit and deserve to be investigated.
However, there is a darker side not being spoken about enough related to the suicides — mental health.
The unfortunate deaths recorded have exposed the inefficiencies in Zambia’s national health care system that is often overlooked and underfunded.
The several suicides in the span of one month have placed much needed focus on mental health.
Close to half a dozen teenagers have taken their lives linked to their abysmal failure at grade 12.
Outside of these exam-stress related deaths, we have had yet more suicides among the adult population weighed down emotional stress and financial burdens like debt who feel the only way out is to kill themselves.
This clearly shows that a large number of our population has mental health and substance abuse issues of varying degrees that are not being addressed by our health care system.
While many suicidal people and those with mental disorders would want to get help, the availability of therapists both private and public is highly restrictive.
Currently, Lusaka’s University Teaching Hospital’s clinic six has only two psychiatrists while a session with a private therapist will likely set someone back anything between K250 and K600 per session.
Those that can afford private therapy sessions find that highly recommended practitioners are fully booked Monday to Friday underscoring just how many people need help.
However, it is not just a matter of having enough psychiatrists in public health facilities.
To underscore the shortage of competent mental health providers, some patients have complained that when they have reached out to some therapists, they tend to digress from therapy and advise patients to consider also employing the services of clergymen.
This tactic is a wrong approach as those seeking salvation would go to church and not a therapist’s office.
Also, the price of drugs usually prescribed to manage illness of the mental nature are costly and are not stocked in public hospitals.
These are some of the glaring inefficiencies of our health care in relation to mental health disorders.
A lot of people today are struggling with life issues and experiencing symptoms of depression without knowing how to address those challenges.
Free therapy sessions in public health facilities that match clients with mental health experts based on their needs must be provided.
The expansion of mental health and suicide prevention services throughout Zambia must be rolled out.
The stigma associated with seeking support for mental health issues must be fought.