COVID-19 & Mental Health Impacts in Zimbabwe


Covid-19 has increased the risk factors of mental disorders, mainly depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. The nationwide lock down has stimulated overwhelming feelings of sadness, worry, fear, restless, fatigue, separation anxiety, and social anxiety. The youth that used to build their positivity and curiosity in recreational outdoor activities are now locked in their houses.

Covid-19 has affected the mental wellness of kids themselves, who are stuck in one place with affected lifestyles. This has caused a lot of confusion on how to cope with the changes of not going to school, not socialising with others, and more. Being locked in the house has also led to the increase use of social media platforms where false news of Covid-19 is being spread, causing panic and increasing fear. It also stimulates feelings of being left out. Social media differentiates by social class: one might perceive as if they are too poor by judging themselves against others people's heavily-edited pictures, until one develops inferiority complex.

The lockdown has increased food insecurity and poverty in many households. Informal business is largely affected, which is especially concerning as in Zimbabwe, three quarters of the GDP comes from the informal sector. Food insecurity leads to depression and a lot of stress. Most people were affected by family financial losses, making it difficult to cater for their families - mostly those who relied on hand-to-mouth life. This has stressed many parents on how they can feed their children. The spreading of reports of new deaths daily is leaving people helplessly in fear, leading to a lot of depression and anxiety, especially among those in marginalized communities who can not afford masks, sanitizers and medication. People are now restricted from visiting their families and relatives, so a family is forced to face the pandemic own its own. Family and relatives play a major role in promoting mental health as they can assist and help each other during time of need, but that's not possible during times of lockdown. In many households, they are starving without the neighbour even noticing it, due to lack of socialisation.

More-so during the lockdown, there has been an increase of overworking mainly on women and children. With the crisis, women are now working more than how they used to before COVID-19. Children are also spending much of their time on chores rather than on schoolwork. The increase of prices on electricity means most of the people have to resort to firewood. Women are responsible of fetching firewood, where they have to walk for more than 25 kilometers into the mountains to do so.

Currently, the government has introduced a new law against cutting firewood. Children are now being sent to fetch firewood because they can not be arrested. Clearly, overworking affects mental health, with the most vulnerable groups being women and youths.

Health workers are of great concern as well. In Zimbabwe, before COVID-19, they were operating without proper machinery and other facilities. Currently, still, the country does not have enough facilities. Health workers, being the first exposure to COVID-19 patients, have great fear and anxiety knowing that anytime they can contract the disease. The spread of reports on how their colleagues in other countries with proper facilities are being affected on a daily basis is leaving them and their families with overwhelming and mixed feelings.

Another group that is also affected heavily is the people in prisons. COVID-19 has banned visits into prisons. The prisoners are aware of the disease but not of how their families are. This increased the depth of isolation between them and their families.

EDITOR'S NOTE

Letters to Strangers+Zimbabwe is seeking to alleviate the stressors of the COVID-19 crisis by conducting socially-distant, masked workshops on mental health, COVID-19 facts, and how to sew reusable masks and sanitary products. Please consider supporting their mission by donating to Letters to Strangers today.

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