Mental Health Bill heads to Parliament

12 October 2021 | Health

The Mental Health Bill, which will replace the obsolete Mental Health Act of 1973, is expected to be tabled in Parliament early next year.
Senior mental health programme officer in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Magdalena Didalelwa, said the bill has been presented to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation for further scrutiny.
She said it is aimed at, amongst others, providing guidance on mental health issues and will serve to protect the human rights of patients, their families and their properties.
The bill will also assist Namibia in addressing challenges, such as the lack of infrastructure and facilities to serve people with mental health conditions, shortage of skilled persons, lack of funding and investment in mental health.
Namibia has one fully-fledged public mental health facility at the Windhoek central hospital, one ward at the Oshakati hospital and one private facility in Windhoek (Bel Esprit).
The country also lacks psychiatrists and qualified psychologists.
Data from the ministry shows that between April 2019 and March 2020, at least 5 139 people were admitted to these facilities for mental health-related matters, while 9 782 new out-patients were seen. The facilities recorded 82 119 revisits.
Didalelwa said these numbers are expected to increase as more people continue to seek help, especially amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October and the ministry plans to hold a series of work-place educational campaigns on mental health illness to educate people on how to help those dealing with mental health issues.
“We need to look at mental health illness the same way we look at diseases and physical conditions. Mental health affects all of us and more needs to be done in terms of research, funding, support and investment into mental health at family, community and national level,” Didalelwa stated.
She noted that there is a lack of services designed for people with mental health and those diagnosed at times struggle to get admitted due to the limited facilities. “The subject is also still considered a taboo and often linked to witchcraft,” she said. – Nampa

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