ACCESSIBILITY TO MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES IN TANZANIA ACCESSIBILITY TO MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES IN TANZANIA
Hilda Tizeba

Hilda Tizeba

13 Jan 2021

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ACCESSIBILITY AND AFFORDABILITY OF MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES IN TANZANIA

Growing up, most of us never heard what mental health care was all about. In fact, if most of us are honest, we most likely never truly fathomed that one’s mental state was something to be considered and taken care of just as much as one’s physical health. The idea that just as the physical body, your mental state also gets affected seemed quite abstract.

As a result, the majority of us found ourselves navigating through life dealing with a myriad of mental health challenges on our own without really knowing where to seek assistance when our mental health was in jeopardy. But the question is, why is that? Why do places that render services for mental health care seem so obscure and mystified? Why aren’t mental health facilities in Tanzania just as commonplace or as obvious as facilities providing care for people’s physical health?

There is a pre-existing notion within the Tanzanian society that mental health care is reserved for dire and critical mental health conditions and disorders. But also, mental health concerns have been for the majority been viewed through a westernized lens and regarded as “western concepts” and not really applicable to the average Tanzanian. It’s almost as if one should not feel worthy of seeking mental help because their mental health condition is not as “critical or dire” or deemed as a diagnosed illness. Mental health conditions are invisible, which makes them even more dangerous. What’s invisible to the eye is more likely to be ignored. It’s almost as if people need to see “evidence” of how sick a person is in order to acknowledge that that particular person or even they themselves need help.

According to research done by the WHO, by the age of 14, one out of four adolescents would have developed a mental health illness, which fully manifests itself by the age of 24. From these statistics, it signifies that the number of people suffering from mental health conditions is quite significant. Moreover, considering that mental health and one’s mental state in the course of their lives runs on a spectrum, each and every one of us is bound to need mental health care and assistance at some point in time.

So where can people access mental health services when they need to? More importantly, how much does it cost to get access to mental health care in Tanzania? Currently, a single session with a therapist can go as far as $150 per hour, how many people can actually afford this? It is not sufficient for mental health care services to only be visibly available if they are not financially accessible. Does the scarcity and pricing of mental health services alienate people inadvertently? Furthermore, could the pricing of mental health services in Tanzania further perpetuate the stereotype that mental health care is indeed only a westernised concern? Are there cheaper and reliable ways for mental health care services to be available to the majority of the population? Am just thinking out loud.

I raise all these questions to highlight the need for firm policy reform in the mental health care spectrum. While there are places that do offer mental health care services, they are still not publicized enough nor does the majority of the population know where to access these services or even realize the importance of taking care of their mental health. The cost of such services is also an important aspect.

There is no physical health without mental health. By demystifying the concept of mental health, making the society understand the importance of prioritising their mental health and how it contributes to the boost in overall productivity, as well as consciously directing policy reform towards the increase in training of mental health care professionals around the country, constructing more mental health care facilities as well as ensuring affordability; one step at a time, the nation will be heading in the right direction. I for sure would love to see the day mental health care facilities are bustling amidst our neighbourhoods as the many polyclinics around. Wouldn’t you agree?

Guided Path Tanzania.

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Hilda Tizeba
Written by

Hilda Tizeba

I am a lecturer and the CEO and Founder of a mental health organisation called Guided Path Tanzania. I strive to eliminate stigma through education, advocacy and utilising the law to bring forth meaningful policy and legal reform in the mental health sector in Tanzania.

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