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To have mental illness or HIV?

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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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A welcome snitch

Yvonne Mooka

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CELLPHONE TRACKER: Tebogo Aaron says criminals have labelled him a snitch for helping the police track people’s stolen property

Tebogo Aaron works hand-in-hand with Botswana Police Service to track down missing and stolen cellphones.

In an interview with The Midweek Sun, the 38-year-old man from Mahalapye says that on average, he traces between 25 and 50 mobile phones per day. He runs a store called Gadgets + Collectables, with two branches in Airport Junction and Phakakane’s Acacia mall.

Even though he sells a variety of gadgets, among them cellphones, Bluetooth speakers, laptops, it is the business of cellphone tracking that has given him a niche in the market. The Business Management and IT graduate says that his cellphone tracking business makes him stand out. “We are now in the era of cellphones. Almost every person has a cellphone and again, people steal them at a high rate,” he says.

Aaron provides police with leads, allowing them to do recoveries. He helps people who come with a police affidavit. “I have attracted hate from thugs thinking I’m a snitch,” he laughs.
But how long does it take for him to track down a cellphone? He says that the gadget becomes traceable the moment a sim card gets inserted inside.

His observation is that people have a tendency of buying stolen gadgets something he says is risky as one ends up charged by the police for buying a stolen item.
“Thugs steal phones with the intention to sell them, not to keep them. They want fast cash,” he says. And he says that thieves would go to an extent of creating fake Facebook pages to sell their stolen cellphones.

“Immediately after selling them, they delete the social media accounts while the buyer is left with it. People must take precaution,” he says. One of the people who have benefited from Aaron’s service, Lerato Lepang says her phone and wallet were snatched from her on June 4 in Molepolole.

“I reported with the police. A week later I heard of Gadgets + Collectables and decided to give it a shot. I went to the store on July 13 with a police affidavit as well as my phone details.“Five days later I received a call from them saying they had details of someone who had my phone,” she says. Another person Masego Mokgwatlheng says Aaron managed to recover her phone after a month in June.

She had forgotten it in a cab and traces showed that the cab driver had sold it to a Zimbabwean man. “I am now using my phone. It was made easier because I had a police affidavit,” she says. In addition to cellphone tracking, Aaron also tracks lost or stolen pets, bicycles and luggage. He has five employees.

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Mixed reactions to Masisi’s law on home-operated businesses

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President Mokgweetsi Masisi intends to simplify the process of starting micro-businesses to make it less demanding. This entails retracting licenses for starting small businesses such as tuckshop, manicures and many others.

The Midweek Sun went out on the streets to hear views of the people about the new bill.A boutique owner based in Kanye Thapelo Dioka said it is a good initiative but he worries that Batswana will even set-up businesses which are not environmentally friendly.

“I have long struggled and been unable to rent out my spare bedrooms to try feed my family, due to stringent procedures of acquiring licenses,” said Dioka. Kolobetso Maswabi lamented that for a long time young people have been paying expensive rentals. The new law will help in starting and maintaining businesses as there will be no rentals to pay.

“For some of us who stay next to big malls the law will be an advantage, I am going to operate business in the backyard,” she says. However some had doubts about the new law, describing it as a campaign strategy and a desperate effort to gain political mileage. They will only believe it when it is signed into law.

“Why would he retract licenses when elections are about to take place and there is a need for them to explain more on what they mean about small scale businesses,” asked another entrepreneur.

Tiraone Basenyafela, an entrepreneur with disability who does leather works, lamented that they have long endured charges for licenses and at times failure to renew the licenses results in losing them.

“I believe that only big shops should be required to have licenses, not small businesses and struggling individuals like me,” said Basenyafela.

President Masisi explained that the new law intends to help Batswana improve their livelihoods and graduate from poverty, but added that licenses will still be required for those seeking to deal in food businesses and others that could be potentially unfriendly to the environment.

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