We are in a Crisis
I sat down across from the Head of the Department of Psychiatry of our local hospital. His name is Dr. Venevivi and he is the first trained Psychiatrist to hold his position since the mid 70s.
He tells me that there used to be a movement towards mental health in Zambia, but once the AIDS crisis hit, mental health was thrown by the wayside. If you say the word counselling in Zambia today, people will assume you are talking about AIDS counseling, which is more about information-giving before and after an HIV blood test instead of listening to and supporting the individual. It has very little to do with mental health.
I was excited to talk with Dr. Venevivi. We both have a vision for a healthier community.
“Who do you usually see coming through your clinic?” I asked him as I sat across from him in his office at the hospital.
“Mostly youth. And a lot of them are dealing with addictions.”
I nodded. “And my question is always. What hole are they trying to fill with their addictions.”
He told me about the interesting phenomenon of skyrocketing alcohol addiction starting in 2014 or 2015. “If you look at the charts, it is going up steadily from the early 90s but then it hits 2012, 13, and 14 and the curve skyrockets.”
We both have seen the need for more support for people that are struggling with depression and anxiety.
I told him how we are working very hard to create a solid base for our organization and that we are not trying to rush things. A funny expression passed across his face. “I support all that you are doing to bring a strong organizational foundation, but remember, April, we are in a crisis.”