Min­istry of Health against le­gal­i­sa­tion of mar­i­juana

Swazi Observer - - NATIONAL NEWS - Sto­ries by Si­fiso Nh­la­batsi Manzini

THE min­istry of health is against the call by many to le­galise mar­i­juana in the coun­try.

Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Health Dr Si­mon Zwane said there was no way the coun­try could achieve men­tal health if it is go­ing to le­galise the use of mar­i­juana.

He was speak­ing dur­ing the com­mem­o­ra­tion of the World Men­tal Health Day held at The Ge­orge Ho­tel yes­ter­day.

Zwane said sub­stance use dam­ages the coun­try’s youth.

The PS said young peo­ple from the age of 14 to 29 are drown­ing in al­co­hol be­cause of the bars lit­tered all over the coun­try.

He said it would be sad to hear that a health prac­ti­tioner also runs a bar sell­ing al­co­hol while at the same time say­ing the coun­try is fight­ing men­tal health prob­lems.

On that note, World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) Of­fi­cer in Charge Dr Khosi Mthethwa also shared the Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary’s sen­ti­ments on dagga. Pre­sent­ing statis­tics dur­ing her speech Mthethwa said ac­cord­ing to the Global School-based Stu­dent Health Sur­vey con­ducted among learn­ers aged 13 and 17 years in Eswa­tini in 2014.

The find­ings re­vealed that about one in 15 ado­les­cents use mar­i­juana once or more times in their life times and more than half of these start us­ing it be­fore the age of 14 years.

She said it had been also sad to note that about one in six ado­les­cent at­tend­ing school has no close friends.

“This can lead to lone­li­ness which can cause de­pres­sion and sui­cide. Ac­tu­ally about 20 per cent of young peo­ple se­ri­ously con­sider at­tempt­ing sui­cide ev­ery year. Sui­cide is the sec­ond lead­ing cause of death among 1529 year-olds glob­ally,” Mthethwa said.

She said men­tal health prob­lems af­fect about one in 10 chil­dren and young peo­ple.

The of­fi­cer in charge said these prob­lems in­clude de­pres­sion, self-harm, anx­i­ety dis­or­ders, post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der (PTSD), eat­ing dis­or­ders, bul­ly­ing just to men­tion a few.

All hope is not lost how­ever as ac­cord­ing to Mthethwa, the good news is that there are sim­ple things that could help keep chil­dren and young peo­ple men­tally well.

She said young peo­ple are en­cour­aged to eat a bal­anced diet, get reg­u­lar ex­er­cise to keep phys­i­cally fit and have enough sleep.

Mthethwa said fam­i­lies need to get along well most of the time for the sake of young peo­ple, she added that schools should look af­ter the well­be­ing of all its learn­ers.

She said chil­dren and ado­les­cents with men­tal dis­or­ders of­ten face stigma and lim­ited ac­cess to health care and ed­u­ca­tion, in vi­o­la­tion of their hu­man rights.

“Young peo­ple have a right to pri­vacy if they do not want to talk to you about their con­ver­sa­tions with pro­fes­sion­als, but you should still re­spond sen­si­tively if they seem to be up­set. Young peo­ple are how­ever en­cour­aged to open up to their par­ents- have a warm, open re­la­tion­ship with their par­ents,” Mthethwa said.

She said if a pupil is hav­ing prob­lems at school, a teacher, school nurse, school coun­sel­lor or ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­o­gist may be able to help.

She urged pupils to talk their prob­lems through.

She added that or­gan­i­sa­tions that can help are also avail­able in the coun­try.

Mthethwa said as the coun­try cel­e­brates World Men­tal Health Day, she would like to call upon the gov­ern­ment of the King­dom of Eswa­tini to de­velop and strengthen ev­i­dence-based pro­grammes for young peo­ple, with the sup­port of na­tional pol­icy-mak­ers and pro­gramme man­agers.

She in­vited in­ter­ested part­ners and civil so­ci­ety to con­tinue col­lab­o­rat­ing with the gov­ern­ment and WHO to im­prove the re­sponse to ado­les­cents’ health needs.

AT­TEN­DEES: Pupils and teach­ers who at­tended the event tak­ing notes.

RECORD­ING: A sec­tion of those who at­tended the event.

IN SONG: ST Joseph’s School pupils ren­der­ing a song dur­ing the com­mem­o­ra­tion of World Men­tal Health Day at The Ge­orge Ho­tel yes­ter­day.

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