Massive shortage of mental health professionals

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WINDHOEK – The Windhoek Central Hospital psychiatry ward recorded 613 new first visits between last year and this year.

In addition, the ward recorded a further 6 436 revisits, home visits and admissions during the same period while forensics psychiatry recorded 125 cases.

The Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services Juliet Kavetuna, while announcing these statistics during the budget debate contribution in parliament last week, said the shortage of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists and social workers are among the main barriers in providing sufficient treatment.

“There are less than five psychiatrists and a handful of psychiatric nurses in the entire Namibia,” said Kavetuna.
Stressing the importance of investing in mental health, Kavetuna noted that good mental health implies that an individual is able to cope with the normal stresses of life.

Good mental health, added Kavetuna, means that a person can work productively and fruitfully and can make a contribution to the economic wellbeing of society.

“Children who experience better mental health and wellbeing may be more likely to do well at school, increasing their career prospects later in life,” added the Deputy Minister of Health.

In addition, she said children who experience severe behavioural problems generate high demands on the education and social care systems as well as on health services with adverse consequences that can persist into adulthood.

“Positive mental health or mental capital allows for cognitive and emotional flexibility which is the basis for social skills and resilience in the face of stress,” she added.

Furthermore, Kavetuna noted that older people may be at higher risk of depression and social exclusion, which in turn can have negative aspects on their physical health.

“Strengthening the emphasis on mental health within the public health and health promotion functions of health systems, could help avoid some of the economic burden of poor mental health and potentially be economically attractive,” she said.

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