Tanzania must improve working conditions to fight off depression: call

Wednesday October 11 2017



By George Sembony TheCitizenTz

Tanga. Unless there is improvement in working conditions at work places in Tanzania, the nation could see increased depression and anxiety trends, a situation which can be detrimental to efficiency and productivity, a clinical psychiatrist has warned.

Speaking in an interview during the commemoration of the World Mental Health Day held at the Tanga Regional Mental Health Recovery Center at the Bombo Regional Referral Hospital in Tanga on Wednesday, Dr Wallace Karata, said that although intensive research has not been conducted there were indications that the problems was also present among Tanzania’s workforce.

Dr Karata said at the global level s more than 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability.

“More than 260 million live with anxiety disorders. Many of these people live with both,” he said adding that it would be imprudent to believe that the problem was nonexistent in Tanzania.

He pointed out that a recent WHO-led study estimated that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

“Tanzania is not free from that problem but we believe it is major problem that affects workers although they have not been able to recognise their problems,” Dr Karata said.


He urged managers and leaders at work places to understand the state of the mental health of their subordinates or co-workers and take action to protect them from the problems through actions designed to improve working conditions that could be the source.

Speaking in the same occasion, the director of the Tanga-based organization, Tanga International Competence Centre (TICC) said that employers must do everything possible to protect their employees from depression and anxiety.

“It is one thing to secure an employment but employers must care for their workers by creating conditions that will not make them relapse into depression and anxiety,” Ms Nesje said, adding that in Norway the problem was very common.

She emphasized the need for creating love between workers and making them feel that they were valued for their contributions to the organisations.

Ms Nesje also spoke of the need to fully utilise two wards that were built at the centre for mental patients to stop the need for sending patients to Lutindi and Mirembe.

She asked the government to recruit more mental health nurses and doctors at the Tanga Regional Referral Hospital at Bombo to enable it to put into operation the two mental health wards which have been unused since the center was launched in April this year. The centre was built with the Norwegian Private financial assistance through TICC.

The two wards which form part of the centre housed in a building refurbished by Norwegian private donors through TICC and its non-governmental organization, Hatua na Maendeleo (Hama) whose mental health programme is operating in the building in cooperation with the Bombo Mental Health Department.

The two wards have a capacity to take six patients at a time each and there are also rooms reserved for violent mental patients.

She said that they have spent almost Sh1 billion to rehabilitate and renovate the building where the Mental Health department is now housed apart from the recovery centre. “We would like to see the wards being used instead of referring patients to distant mental health hospitals,” Ms Nesje said.

She added that they would think of assisting district hospitals to establish their own mental health wards after reviewing the performance of the two wards at the regional referral hospital.

According to the Regional Mental Health Coordinator, Anita Temu the number of patients being attended by the unit for the 2016/17 financial year is 7,392, out of which 4,460 are males and 2,937 are females.

She said the number has dropped slightly compared to the previous year (2015/16) because of the services being offered by Hama’s Mental Health Programme. The services, Temu said include, home care services for mental patients, training caregivers at home on how to handle mental patients, providing medicine support and transportation for referred patients.

The acting Bombo Hospital Superintendent, Dr Yasin Salim emphasized the need to a serious awareness program that would make community members stop resorting to traditional healers or hiding mental patients at home.

Dr Salim said that experience with services being offered at the Mental Health Recovery Center since it was launched has shown that mental patients can return to their normal lives if they undergo occupational therapy.

“We have a number of young people who have been able to return to normal and enabled to use their talents to produce items which they sell to get an income,” Dr Salim said.