The SOS Children’s Villages Zambia has appealed to the public to get acquainted with the mental health Act of 2019.
SOS Children’s Village Zambia Programme Advisor, Rebecca Chipoya has noted that there are various extents of mental illness hence knowing and understanding the legal aspects that protect one with a mental illness is important.
“Information is power, and ignorance is no defence. Some of the aspects that this law deals with include the medical aspect as well as the use of derogatory language. For instance, use of derogatory language such as imbecile towards a person suffering from a mental illness is a criminal offence that attracts imprisonment for one year or payment of a fine of K30,000 or even both,” Ms Chipoya said.
She was speaking during a child safeguarding and protection sensitisation and awareness meeting on the mental health Act of 2019, with the Katete District Child Protection Committee.
She further emphasised that communities should get to know this law so that they can protect and act in the best interest of the people suffering from mental illness.
Ms Chipoya further called for the need to rebuild family and societal values in the various communities.
She explained that a breakdown in family and societal values has led to violence against children as societies are not protecting them.
“There is nowhere we can find solace. All sorts of abuses are happening and even children with disabilities are the worst affected. Now, imagine those with mental disabilities, what they are going through?” she wondered.
Ms Chipoya said violence against children steal trust, corrupts, maims, kills, and destroys children, the vitality of childhood, and undermines society.
Meanwhile, Katete Acting District Commissioner, Anslow Muchelemba lamented how society has been mistreating old people with mental health conditions.
Ms Muchelemba said the combination of old age and mental illness instantly makes the community conclude that one practices witchcraft, a mentality that ravages the very fabric of what family and community should be.
“You will find that this old person due to a mental illness finds themselves on the street may be naked, but people including those sworn to protect or take care of people, will now start asking this person; are you a witch, how many people have you killed? And because this old person is not in a normal mental state will just be agreeing to whatever they are saying,” she said.
Ms Muchelmba said it was important for the public to understand mental health to avoid name-calling and doing things that might be detrimental to the mental patient’s health and the wellbeing of society.
Meanwhile, Katete Town Council, Chairperson Fanuel Chama appealed for the need for communities to be sensitised on mental health and the mental health Act of 2019 so that they may not abuse people with mental illnesses.