MENTAL Health Users Network of Zambia (MHUNZA) president Mulima Kasote says some psychosocial disability persons have committed suicide because they could not handle the pressure that comes with Covid-19.

In an interview, Kasote said unemployment and financial constraints associated to Covid-19 were making it hard for persons with mental psychosocial disabilities to access medication.

“The issue that I have before hand is the effects of Covid-19 on persons with mental psychosocial disabilities. To start with, I want to mention that I’m one of those in the country who have a condition called bipolar disorder and therefore, I’m one of the persons with psychosocial disabilities. The effects of Covid-19 on us have been very adverse. First of all, in the area of employment, we have not been spared, our colleagues have lost jobs, now you can imagine you are taking medication which requires money, you have to eat, you have to look after your family and then you are told there is no job, that is a serious challenge. Some of our colleagues even ended up taking their lives, they have committed suicide because they can’t handle the pressure that comes with Covid-19,” he said.

He said movement restrictions were also not conducive for persons with mental psychosocial disabilities.

“Apart from that, just restricting us to certain areas where you are told no, you stay within this area because if you go out to the public, you will get Covid-19. Our make up is such that we don’t like confinement, so when we are confined to one place, it has an effect on us, on our thinking and our behaviour, that is why there has been an increase in the relapses in persons with psychosocial disabilities simply because of Covid-19,” he said.

“The other thing that I would like to talk about is in terms of the economic pressure. You know, the economy is biting because of Covid-19. I know there is a relation between Covid-19 and the economy of the country. What has happened is that most of the drugs that we are expecting to get, we don’t have because the money has been diverted to Covid-19 and the focus has shifted now to Covid-19, instead of looking at these other minor illnesses, not only illnesses, you know when you have a mental health problem you need a lot of attention”.

Meanwhile, Kasote lamented the lack of medication in government healthcare facilities.

“I would like to speak about Chainama, the place really has nothing to write home about, we have been going there for our medication and we are told there is no medication which simply means that the government has no money to buy medication and we are told to go and buy, but how can I go and buy medication when I’m in a situation where I’m not employed and when you go to the hospital, you are told to pay fees? There is NHIMA in place, why should we be paying fees when there is NHIMA insurance? So this doesn’t make sense,” said Kasote.

“And we have been singing the same song all along, on and on, it falls on deaf ears. We’ve tried the politicians, we’ve tried community members, it is falling on deaf ears and yet we continue to suffer. Some of us didn’t volunteer to get sick like this but we just found ourselves in this situation. So it’s really a challenge and I’m appealing to the people out there, members of the community, you know, this problem is not in the hospitals, the problem is in the community. When you look at stigma and discrimination, it hits us very hard and then the government is saying ‘leaving no one behind’, we’ve been left behind so, many of us are left behind”.