* Incorporating the subject in their sermons, the Church will help to increase promotion of mental health
* Of the many problems citizens may be going through, we believe there is something positive that can be worked on
* The special training on Nov. 25 at Amaryllis Hotel in Blantyre will draw the Ministers and their spouses
* Whose guest speakers are Dr. Mary Shaba and renowned mental health experts, Dr. Chioza Bandawe
By Duncan Mlanjira
Blantyre City Presbytery of the CCAP has joined efforts for swift action to address the alarming increase of suicide cases in the country, which — according statistics from the National Police Headquarters statistics — stand at 168 people committing suicide from January to October this year and 58 cases were registered in the month of October alone.
There have also been many other cases reported in the media in this month of November and the Blantyre City Presbytery announced at a press conference on Friday, November 18 at Grace Bandawe Conference Centre that its spiritual Ministers will undergo special training on mental health to incorporate the alarming subject in their sermons.
Presbytery Clerk, Rev Bruno Chipewa said incorporating the subject in their sermons, the Church will help to “increase public awareness and to promote mental health through positive religious coping, community support and positive beliefs and awareness through our structures”.
“We believe that well managed religion and spirituality can result into good mental health by means of positive religious coping, mutual understanding, good communication and positive beliefs towards building a better nation.
“Of the many problems citizens may be going through, we believe there is something positive that can be worked on,” said Reverend Chipewa of the campaign under the theme: ‘Spiritual resilience is a powerful tool in maintaining good mental health’.
The special training is set for November 25 at Amaryllis Hotel in Blantyre that will draw the Ministers and their spouses — whose guest speakers are mental health experts; Dr. Mary Shaba and Dr. Chioza Bandawe.
“The Presbytery, through its congregations, provides her members with hope, optimism, self-esteem and contentment amidst worldly challenges such as stress and other mental related issues.
“Regardless of its effort, the Presbytery and the world at large are affected by extreme cases of mental health among men. We have seen an increase in number of deaths among men and youths in Malawi that has adversely affect the Church, State and even those left behind.”
Rev. Chipewa further said Church Ministers are first to interact with people who are challenged — thus such efforts on the Presbytery for the Ministers to advocate for mental health literacy.
“Of the many problems citizens may be going through, we believe there is something positive that can be worked on,” he said, adding that the Ministers’ Mental Health and Psycho-education training would enable them to share experiences and learn from one another through the guidance of the experts and professionals, “who are equally role models in the community on how these problems can be dealt with”.
“We can save a lot of lives through this program by reducing the number of people going to prisons, committing suicide, marriage breakups, child alcohol and drug abuse and all those going through various problems.”
Flanked by Presbytery Clerk, Rev. Kingsley Maulana and Vice-Presbytery Moderator Rev. Oswald Chinyama, Rev. Chipewa called for support from the public in cash and kind for the Church to achieve its objective, saying “adequate resources will be required to drive this agenda successfully”.
In his remarks, Rev Chinyama quoted the Book of Genesis of the Holy Bible, saying “God made man in his own image and gave him life and it is only Him who can decide to take it back”.
He emphasized that “life is sacred and should not be terminated through suicide. We are going to advocate to our congregations that life does not belong to themselves but it is God-given.
“If people will understand this, they will realise their intention to sin by committing suicide. We believe that this intervention will work for well-being of our congregations and the country at large.”
He also said they take cognizance that suicides are due to financial stress and in their sermons, they advocate for a healthy church — spiritually, religious and physical as well as giving messages of hope on how their flock can uplift their lives financially.
Last week, mental health experts in the country called for development of psycho-social support seeking behaviours among people whenever they are stressed rather than committing suicide.
In an interview with Malawi News Agency (MANA), Dr. Charles Masulani — chief executive officer for St. John of God Hospitaller Services described the recent surge in suicidal cases ‘a disease’, which calls for enhancement and scaling up of mental health services.
“The surge in suicide cases is a general concern,” he told MANA, adding that they were working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to develop a national suicide prevention strategy.
“It’s a document that will outline what we need to be doing as a nation and what the government ought to do for its citizenry to ensure that cases of suicide are reducing,” he said.
MANA also quoted another metal health expert, Mwiza Mphande, who said the trend was as a result of people failing to open up about their problems, saying: “People fear being misunderstood, that’s why they resort to suicide.
“They must know that it’s normal to feel the way they are feeling and it does not make them less human. Committing suicide doesn’t bring peace rather it leaves pain to dependents,” he said.
Mphande emphasized that the public and private sectors should advocate for mental health as was the case with the CoVID-19 pandemic, HIV/Aids and other diseases.
“I believe we can do better as a country if we can allocate resourcesfor provision of quality health service delivery with focus on mental healthin our national budget to address the issue,” he said.
He quoted a United Nations report that encourages African countries to allocate US$2 per capita for mental health in their national budgets, which he described as meager contribution towards prevention of suicide cases.—Additional reporting by Tawonga Moyo, MANA