Govt and UNICEF develop new module on mental health for children and adolescents

By Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

CHILD protection organisations have been challenged to take mental health awareness programmes to rural communities to facilitate appropriate interventions.

Just like their urban counterparts, children and adolescents in rural areas are battling mental health challenges, amid calls from community care workers and leaders to take awareness campaigns to the rural populace.

“There is need for the introduction of awareness campaigns and workshops where we can teach the children and enlighten them on mental health issues. We were used to having depression and high blood pressure issues affecting the elderly, but now it’s also affecting children. As the rural population, there is need for more interventions,” explained Zecks Nyatsanga, a community care worker.

Having recognised the effects of mental health on children and adolescents, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working with government to develop a new module for mental health which is on trial in Manicaland province through the Farm Orphans Support Trust (FOST), as explained by Alice Nyastanga, a student.

“The FOST campaigns meetings that we have been attending have really helped me emotionally and intellectually. We have learnt a lot on mental health issues. It has also helped me and my colleagues shun drugs as well as child marriages,” she said.

Speaking on the same issue, a district social worker with Farm Orphans Support Trust, Atipaisha Mamhute said, “As FOST we have quite a number of interventions that we are doing together with government and partners. In the rural settings that we have, we are establishing clubs where we have children and adolescents of the same age groups interact and share ideas on issues that are affecting them.

“In rural areas nothing much is evident in terms of trying to mitigate the issues of mental health as well as trying to raise awareness on issues of mental health, so, most of the cases are being neglected.”

While the setting up of village kids clubs to cater for the rural population has helped children and adolescents to shun drugs and early marriages in Tsikirire village, the community believes more still needs to be done to address mental health issues in rural communities.