More than two thirds of children in Zimbabwe experience some form of violent discipline and over a third of girls suffer from sexual violence before their 18th birthday UNICEF has said as calls grow to improve mental health support for adolescents.
In a statement to commemorate World Action Day for mental health, UNICEF notes that several forms of violence against children had impact on mental health in children and adolescents.
Abuse, neglect, and other adverse childhood experiences have been identified as the main preventable causes of poor mental health.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures have exacerbated protection risks among children and adolescents, contributing to increased mental health challenges,” UNICEF said in a statement.
School closures and the loss of learning opportunities for more than 4.5 million children in Zimbabwe have also impacted on the mental health, the UN Agency said.
Government has adopted the Mental Health Strategy, as well as the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support guidelines recently developed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care as issues of mental health continue to impact communities.
“We congratulate the Government for the initiatives taken and the work done on mental health. We look forward to continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and its partners to further increase attention and support for mental health care for children and adolescents,” UNICEF Representative Dr Tajudeen Oyewale said.
The real scale and nature of mental health challenges faced by children and adolescents in Zimbabwe remains unknown amid heightened calls for more research.
“Mental health issues particularly when it relates to children and adolescents are still a taboo in many societies, also in Zimbabwe. Breaking the silence around mental health is urgently needed,” Oyewale said.