Four elderly people suffering from mental illness and other disorders have been killed so far this year in Ndola, Zambia for allegedly practicing witchcraft. Ndola District Commissioner Rebby Chanda said the Government was concerned with the rising number of elderly people being brutally beaten and killed after being suspected of practicing witchcraft.
Mr. Chanda said the primary response to mental illness was usually fear and avoidance, with accusations of witchcraft. He said this during the World Mental Day commemoration under the theme “Mental Health and Older Adults”, held at Ndola Central Hospital on Thursday.
“Many people suffering dementia have been mistaken for witches resulting in being beaten up. The stigma attached to mental illness sadly dissuades people from seeking treatment, leaving them alone and helpless with a limited hope of recovery,” he said.
Mr. Chanda said many people living with mental illness in Zambia continued to be discriminated against, marginalized and violated because they suffered from mental disorders. He said the Government was aware of the deplorable infrastructure for mentally ill people, adding that K700 million had been set aside for rehabilitating Livingstone General Hospital and Ndola Central Hospital mental health units, and that a mental health unit was being constructed at Solwezi General Hospital considering that North-Western Province had no such health facility.
Chanda urged the media to actively highlight challenges facing mental patients to encourage relevant institutions to tackle the problem at national level.
Acting head of the psychiatric department at Ndola Central Hospital, Mercy Mwansa, said the hospital was trying to offer best health mental services to patients despite inadequate facilities. Ms. Mwansa urged the public to stop stigmatising the elderly people with mental disorder conditions.