PTSD, or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood.
Or in simpler terms it is a psychological response to the experience of an event (or events) of an intensely traumatic nature.
This article seeks to shed light on only a few of the many cases as seen through the eyes of our Zimbabwean society and try to offer solutions where possible. However, one must never be tempted to think that any country is free of PTSD cases.
The cases of Post traumatic stress can be traced as early as 1980 or even before. After the very much celebrated Chimurenga war most of the Veterans only received physical rehabilitation and the war trauma went unchecked.
Dr Parirenyatwa, the current health minister noted, “The post traumatic disorders, a lot of our soldiers were not counseled post-war and we just assume it’s over but in reality we still have a lot of problems…” And he went on to say, “We haven’t as a ministry managed to put much emphasis on the condition.” If such recklessness and carelessness is exhibited by the authorities responsible then who should be held accountable? Are we as a nation being ungrateful and ignorant to those whom we owe our freedom?
Untreated ptsd leads to serious cases of mental illnesses and it was noted that of the 1.3million cases of mental illnesses reported, a quarter of the number is made up of ex-soldiers and war aids according to government data. Such figures are nothing but disheartening.
Mental illness is one thing that was grossly ignored after the liberation war. Any war ends with lots of trauma patients and there is need to address that. It was and still is the responsibility of the whole nation to ensure that the matter is addressed.
It can be noted with great concern that in our society there is no proper classification of mental illnesses. There are more than a hundred forms of mental illnesses including ;Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, hallucinations, acute stress, amnesia, substance dependence, dyslexia, insomnia, kleptomania, moods etc. are also forms of mental illnesses but in our Shona culture all these are summed up by one word, ‘KUPENGA.’ and all are probably treated with only one drug called DIAZEPAM.
What should be done? Whose job is it anyway?
Not everyone deserves to be institutionalized, some just require counseling. Some still believe in the ‘kuroyiwa’ aspect such that they fail to consult professionals and get treatment early.
Group therapy is very important and useful in dealing with post traumatic stress. There are some called Hybrid groups where patients with different cases can share experiences in the hope of brewing critical thoughts in one patient’s mind that trauma is not faced by only a few with misfortune but just anyone.
In simpler terms it helps one realize they are not alone.
Mental health needs system wide approach, and not the current approach that is skewed towards, psychiatry, because psychiatry can only confine people to medication mostly. We need strategies among which are psychotherapies that will help the people to be reintegrated back into their families, communities, workplaces and society.I understand medicine and psychiatry owe their success to psychology, yet psychology is down played. Be it nursing, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, name any medical discipline, it thrives on how people think and behave, which is the purview of psychology.
The whole nation has only two dedicated mental hospitals, Ingutsheni in Bulawayo and Ngomahuru in Masvingo and the truth is they are by far insignificant. No strategy can be implemented without adequate funding. We need a tangible budget to set up more institutions that can play a bigger role than the existing centers. A holistic approach is definitely called for.
Help where you can!