Mental Health Bill to reach Parliament soon: Shangula

Stefanus Nashama

Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, revealed that the Ministry has initiated the drafting of the Mental Health Bill seeking to address the issue of suicide, depression and psychosis cases in the country.

According to the Minister, the current legislation dealing with matters related to mental health is outdated.

“It is for this reason that the Ministry initiated the drafting of the Mental Health Bill, with input from national consultations, experts and practitioners,” he noted.

Shangula made these remarks while speaking at the inauguration of the Mental Health Board for Oshakati Intermediate Hospital for the period of 2023 to 2026, last week Friday.

He expressed concern with several factors associated with the mental state of individuals, saying they are a complex social and psychological matter that requires careful analysis to understand and unpack.

He said the Bill is at an advanced stage and is currently undergoing due legal processes, and it will be tabled in the National Assembly in due course.

According to Shangula, the Bill aims to strengthen the promotion of dignity, autonomy, human rights, and optimal mental, social and physical well-being of persons with mental health conditions.

The Minister said the Bill is in line with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and provides for incidental matters.

Shangula stated that statistics on suicides and attempted suicides, cases of depression, psychosis and other related conditions are worrisome in the country.

However, he believes the matter is also associated with the history of the country which is caused by trauma, conflict, oppression and deprivation.

“This cannot be disregarded, it is part and parcel of what now manifests itself in some of the incidents that we see today displayed by persons with symptoms of mental health,” he noted.

Shangula added the misuse of alcohol and illicit drug abuse are other contributing factors to mental illness challenges in Namibia.

In light of this, he said the Ministry of Health and Social Services in partnership with stakeholders has been implementing initiatives to increase public awareness about mental health.

“The Ministry has initiatives enhancing access to mental health services, providing support for individuals and families affected by mental health conditions, and integrating mental health into primary healthcare, he added.

The minister stressed that there is a lack of qualified professionals to deal with mental issues at an early stage, which is also contributing to the increase in such cases.

“Mental health has not been a field of choice for specialised training for health professionals,” he said.

There has been only one Clinical Psychologist at the Windhoek Central Hospital Mental Health facility, according to Shangula.

Adding that the biggest mental health facility in the country is at the Windhoek Central Hospital, which is in addition to the Ward 16 Psychiatric Unit at Oshakati Intermediate Hospital.

Despite this, Shangula indicated that the number of Clinical Psychologists has now increased to six.

He has since encouraged young people to enrol in Clinical Psychology careers to manage the situation.

According to him, the facility at Windhoek Central Hospital has a bed capacity of 220 and provides services such as General Psychiatry inpatients, outpatients, outreach services and Forensic Psychiatry Services.

Ward 16 at Oshakati Intermediate Hospital has a bed capacity of 60, but sometimes more patients are admitted due to the high demand necessitated by the increasing population.

He further announced that the Ministry has now considered to prioritise the provision of appropriate infrastructure in all regions for mental health care.

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