• Africaid Zvandiri

Touching lives through mental health interventions

Sarudzai* is a 21 year old young mother who was raised by her aunt in a family of 6. Her mother died when she was 2 years old and she has never met her father. She only went as far as primary school because of epilepsy and her caregiver could not afford to pay for her medication. By the age of 17, Sarudzai had tested HIV positive, lost her daughter, divorced and homeless.

Although Sarudzai was initiated on ART in 2014, she never took the medication due to depression. At the age of 18, Sarudzai tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of her epilepsy medication. She was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit at Parirenyatwa Central hospital for four months and was re initiated on ART. Her health improved and she got married to an HIV negative husband. Her family continues to face financial challenges since they are both unemployed.

In April 2016, Sarudzai was referred to Africaid by a CATS from Waterfalls clinic where she collects her Anti-Retroviral Therapy refills from. She joined the young mothers support group in November 2017 where she met the Mental Health Specialist (MHS) during one of the sessions. The MHS conducted an assessment interview and realised that Sarudzai had Severe Major Depressive Disorder with suicidal and homicidal thoughts. She felt overwhelmed and hopeless about her life which was compounded by her HIV status, thus she had thoughts of killing herself and her two children who are both HIV negative.

Sarudzai, her husband and daughter.

In intervening the MHS accompanied Sarudzai to the Annex at Parirenyatwa hospital for further assessment by a psychiatrist and she was commenced on anti-depressants. The MHS continues to see Sarudzai once a week for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) so as to work on beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviours that were promoting the depression. “Through the support I am getting from Africaid including counselling, I am no longer thinking of killing myself and my children. I am now motivated to get solutions to my problems; consistently take my medication including ART, anti-depressants and epilepsy medication.

The Mental Health programme started in October 2017 with the main objective of providing therapeutic and counselling support to children, adolescents and young people identified to be at risk. The programme also provides capacity building to Africaid staff and CATS through training and supervision. So far the programme has screened and supported 113 CATS and 40 beneficiaries.

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