Nearly 17% of patients visiting health institutions in Africa have some form of mental disorder, the World Health Organisation said.
“Though there is limited evidence on mental health problems in the African region, studies from a few countries indicate that one in six patients has at least one mental, neurological or behavioural disorder,” WHO director for Africa Dr Luis Sambo said.
He said there was a need for African countries to initiate programmes that deal with mental health, Zimbabwe's Herald Online reported. He implored African governments to improve mental health facilities.
Support needed from communities
“Communities need to be supported to increase their awareness and knowledge of mental health to reduce stigma associated with these disorders,” he said.
Progress in treatment of mental disorders has been hindered by shortages of professionals and cultural practices.
Sambo said for every 10 million people living in the WHO Africa region, there are only six psychiatrists and 67 psychiatric nurses.
Health Advisor in Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's office, Timothy Stamps, said there was need for Zimbabwe to appreciate the relationship between mental health and chronic physical illness.
“We should extend and elaborate the notion of integration of care by focusing on the connection and relationship between mental health disorders and chronic physical illness.
“The bottom line is mental illnesses occur with chronic physical conditions in many patients. They also worsen prognosis for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, HIV/Aids, cancer and other chronic illnesses,” he said.
(Sapa, November 2010)