Ministry of Health against legalisation of marijuana
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.