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To have mental illness or HIV?



CALL FOR ACTION: Shathani Rampa

Some Batswana would rather be infected with HIV/AIDS than have a mental illness, a study undertaken by Psychology Department at the University of Botswana (UB) has revealed.

Presenting the results of the qualitative study concerning the stigma to HIV and mental illness in Botswana at a seminar held at UB recently, Neuropsychologist and Lecturer in the Psychology Department UB, Shathani Rampa said majority of people interviewed said being diagnosed with HIV was better because treatment was readily available and easily accessible compared to treatment for mental illness.

And unless you tell people, no one can know you have the virus unlike with mental illness.Moreover, people with mental illness were commonly characterised as being dangerous, cognitively impaired, unpredictable, untrustworthy, sickly and unkempt, naked or improperly dressed.“Many felt being a mental health patient was as good as being an ex-convict from prison, you are never trusted or depended on by society ever again,” she shared.

According to Rampa, the study which was conducted in June 2017 in Gaborone showed that there was still a lot of misunderstanding on mental health, what it looks like and that the stigma was driven by this lack of understanding. She said this highlighted the need to increase public awareness on mental health issues.Furthermore Rampa said: “Treatment for mental, neurological disorders is an uphill task in our country where resource allocation for mental health is low, pushing the number of mental health cases up.

“There should be at least one psychiatric nurse in every clinic nationwide, but that is not the case. A patient in Gantsi for example has to travel all the way to Maun to get help.” The country’s entire population is served by one psychiatric hospital, Sbrana Psychiatric Hospital located in Lobatse, with only 7.1 acute psychiatric hospital beds, and 0.29 psychiatrists per 100,000 people according to the World Health Organisation [WHO], 2015.

This and the difficulty in re-integrating mentally ill patients back into society is what is at the heart of lack of adherence to medications and the high rates of relapses experienced, according to Rampa.Recovery from mental illness, Rampa said, is possible, what is needed is for government and society to create an enabling environment.Mental disorders are common and include depression, anxiety, bipolar, attention deficit hyperactivity, among others.

Lecturer in the Department of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Institute of Health Sciences in Lobatse and Co-Founder of Embrace Emotions Support Network (EESN), David Mangwegape explained that although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, research indicates that mental disorders are brain disorders caused by a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors.

“To put it simply, mental disorders are a product of disruption in the communication of the nerves of the brains called neurotransmitters. If they do not function well, then the disorder occurs,” said Mangwegape. Whereas biology plays a role in determining who gets a mental disorder and who does not, Mangwegape adds that socialisation and the environment will affect the manifestation and severity of the illness.

And according to him, Depression is the common most diagnosed mental health illness in Botswana with women being the most affected largely because of their low socio-economic status and issues of violence against them. “We also have an emerging number of substance use disorders, many male youth are affected and this could be attributed to high unemployment rate and failure to resolve relationship issues amicably,” he said.

Some people who develop a mental illness may recover completely; others may have repeated episodes of illness with relatively stable periods in between. Still others live with symptoms of mental illness every day. They can be moderate or serious and can cause severe disability.According to WHO, half of all mental health illnesses begin around the age of 14, with most cases going undetected and untreated. Among adolescents, depression is the third leading mental health illness.

In addition, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. Focusing on the African continent, the global needs for mental health care are gradually becoming more visible, but such needs remain inadequately addressed, according to a report by Doctors without Borders. “A lack of services, data and awareness around mental health issues will inevitably further exacerbate the situation among African youth,” it said.

The “Its when the Trees Blossom” Explanatory beliefs, Stigma and Mental health in the context of Botswana research study, was done through the support of Penn Mental Health AIDS Research Centre (PMHARC) and Botswana-UPenn Partnership (BUP). In-depth semi-structured interviews were done with 42 respondents from a public HIV clinic, a public mall, and a community centre.

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FREE AT LAST: LGBTI persons celebrate

Yvonne Mooka



CELEBRATION TIME: The LGBT community celebrated the historic ruling on same sex romance this Tuesday

Thapelo Matshameko, a transgender woman who last year was attacked at Trekkers night club in Gaborone is over the moon about the High Court ruling that overturned a law that criminalised same sex relations.

A trans-woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth. In response to the ruling, she told The Midweek Sun that even though she has had it tough before with people calling her ‘Brazen’ and to stop behaving like a woman, she is now happy that the law recognises that they exist. She said that Batswana are now becoming tolerant towards Lesbians Gays Bisexual Transgender and Intersex persons.

“Recently I went out for dinner with my bae, and I came all the way from my house wearing a dress. People that know me loved it and my boyfriend loved it even more,” she says, adding that the verdict will also help other LGBTI persons that are in the closet to come out.

In a previous interview Metshameko pleaded for assistance from members of the public to help her do a surgery that would make her a complete woman. For Motswakgakala Sithole also known as Motswafere in music circles, the ruling shows that Botswana is one step closer to gay marriages.

“Thank you to all the visible gay people. We take punches for those hiding and those shaming us for being visible and exercising our rights. You guys attended court cases with pride and you have carried us to freedom,” he said.

He also thanked Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), lawyers in the case, the media, and friends of the LGBTI community for their support. Phio Kenosi who identifies as trans non-binary asexual woma-romantic, (romantically attracted to the feminine essence), was also ecstatic.

“It is obviously showing that we are moving in a new direction that is positive and inclusive towards sexual and gender minority,” he said.

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Wame – a little einstein in the making

Irene Shone




Wame Petit Kangumbe, 12, is an Optometrist in the making.

Kangumbe envisions taking Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to the next level by inventing something scientific in the future.The standard 7 pupil at Ratsie Setlhako Primary School in Palapye impressed everyone during the BIUST 5th STEM Festival and Research and Innovation Symposium with her sharp answers during the fest.

The little Scientist believes that the entire country should embrace science and do more experiments, to find out more about our physical environment and shed dependency on foreign countries in terms of Science and Engineering.

Her secret to relating with different topics so well, is research and more research. “I like researching. We have Wi-Fi at home, and so I often use my mother’s phone to type different topics and interact with how everything is related. I always prepare for the next lesson through researching,” she said.

She said the poverty in Africa can only be eliminated through STEM. “If everyone could take interest in STEM, we would go further in terms of uplifting the status of our economies as African countries,” she said.

She urged her peers to believe in themselves and be serious about their education. “When you write down your notes in class, make an application of what you want out of them. Everyone’s life is in their own hands,” she advised.

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