Shangula blames 'colonialism' for mental illness

Launches mental health NGO
A night of boxing entertainment in the MTC Done in Swakopmund sealed the official launch of National Mental Health Care Namibia.
Adam Hartman
The minister of health and social services, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, at the launch of National Mental Health Care Namibia (NMHCN) in Swakopmund on Saturday, blamed the past colonial political system, amongst others, for the problem of mental illness currently experienced in Namibia.

"The country has been negatively impacted by the colonial political system of racial domination and oppression. Many years of liberation struggle and wars which was accompanied by major psychological stressors have important implications for the poor state of mental health," he said.

Besides the high rate of unemployment that increases the risk of mental disorders in the communities, he said the problem is worsened by the declining sense of social cohesion and solidarity that prevailed during the difficult years of colonialism.

Shangula also said that mental illness can affect anybody "regardless of race, colour, gender, age or nationality". He referred to international studies that suggest that approximately 2-3% of the population at any one time suffer from seriously incapacitating mental disorders while approximately 10% have common mental disorders. "In Namibia, the available data on mental health does not adequately reflect the true nature and magnitude of mental health problems."

He added that dependency on alcohol and tobacco was found to be on the increase among the population, and that the many instances of domestic and sexually related violence are linked to substance abuse, especially alcohol.

According to the minister, there is a large part of people with disabilities that suffer from mental illness, while the recent increase in propensity to suicide and actual suicide are a matter of grave concern to the his ministry. "Some mental illnesses can be cured, while other conditions can be rehabilitated in order to sustain and improve quality of life. The outcome of the treatment depends on early detection and intervention, proper follow up and rehabilitation."

He said that the Namibian government was in full support to initiatives such as (NMHCN) which helps create awareness around issues such as gender based violence, rape, suicide and depression which are all factors that contribute to the deterioration of mental health in society. "The ministry of health and social services has a robust mental health programme, but "the magnitude of the problem outstrips the available infrastructure and human resources. The ministry is finalising the Mental Health Amendment Bill that will be tabled in the National Assembly"

The Bill aims to regulate mental health care in order to promote the dignity, autonomy, human rights and the optimal mental, social and physical wellbeing of persons with mental health conditions; the care and treatment and the procedures that must be followed amongst others."

"'Box out suicide, box out depression and box out rape' drive home the message of hope and resilience. It is a demonstration of the power of sport to contribute to good physical and mental health, which some times is not exploited to the fullest extent," said the minister.

The launch of NMHCN was accompanied by a showcase of boxing bouts that included champions such as Harry Simon, Paulus Moses, Vikapita Meroro and Paulus Ambunda as well as comedians and socialites Milton Xuro and Leonard Witbeen. There were no losers only entertaining exhibitions that demonstrated the boxers' support of the initiative and their willingness to show that rape, depressing and suicide can be 'boxed out'.

The organisation’s founder Cathy Kambanda said the launch and ticket sales would also help raise funds to establishing the organisation and helping those dealing with mental health issues with services such as a call centre, counsellors and professional psychologists.

The aim of NMHCN is to assist people with mental health problems and to promote good mental health and well-being amongst the Namibian public. Kambanda knows what the struggle is like having been a victim of rape, with ensuing depression and suicidal tendencies, which she has overcome "by the grace of God", and now wants to share her hope with others.

The results of the amateur bouts were as follows:

In the junior division, Magnus Hamalwa beat Johannes Kanana in the 52kg category. Fillimon Shaningwa beat Immanuel Mandume in the 52kg catergory. Petrus Uugwanga beat David Frans in the 60kg category while Patrick Fillemon beat Jonas Jonas in the 64kg category.

The ladies also did not hold back the punches. In the only ladies' category bout for the night, Selvane Araes and Lucia Hifikwa fought to a draw after three popping rounds.

In the senior division, Joy Nangolo beat Frans Shoombe in the 55kg category. Norbert Haikali beat Edison Hipondoka in the 60 kg category. Robert Shimweneni beat Issak Mandown and Divas Uushona finished off Jonas Lukas in the 63kg category.