Mental Health Week: Depression, Drug Abuse and Suicide Under Spotlight

Features Zimbabwe

Milton Sasa

This week Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in marking mental health awareness week.

Drug abuse and mental health awareness in the country have become a visible reality, a pandemic which has resulted in an increase in suicide cases.

Drug Addiction and depression have a very close and interconnected relationship which if unchecked forms a vicious cycle that all too often leads to suicide. This comes at a time when Zimbabwe has been recording high rates of drug abuse and depression-related suicide cases.

According to, ‘Young People Mental Health Trust’ an organization which deals with mental health issues among young people, over 60 young people have committed suicide since the beginning of this year, with some of them having suffered mental collapse due to drug abuse.

“One of the major causes of depression is substance abuse. A lot of young people are abusing drugs because they want to treat the mental problem. We received more than 60 cases of people who committed suicide and it is sad because that number is huge especially when we are talking about young people.” said director and founder of Young People Mental Health Trust, Tatenda Murepa.

Murepa added that mental health issues among young people were worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic which saw many failing to cope with lock-down restrictions and subsequent hardships.

A lot of people who fall victim to suicide suffer from depression, have a substance abuse disorder, or both, according to specialists. Local psychiatrist Dr Rukudzo Mwamuka Tsungu explained the deep connection between Drug abuse and mental illness, saying that they create an enabling state of mind which more often than not triggers suicidal thoughts.

“Drugs lead to people having a change in their perception, a change in their judgment, so when people are on any of these drugs they lose their reasoning capacity. So sometimes the things that ordinary people wouldn’t do when they are not high on these substances they might end up doing them when they are high, which then leads to some of the suicide attempts that we are having” Dr. Mwamuka said.

The story of drug abuse however has led to positive turns for some who had to bear the biggest losses from drug abuse. For Edson Mudyiwa, a former drug user, the turning point in his life was when he lost his childhood friend who was also a user. Edson said that he quit drugs in his friend’s honour, and as a way of finding closure he formed a trust, The Safe Heaven Trust, to combat substance abuse among young people.

“I was a drug user for 16 years and what made me stop was the disappearance of my closest friend, Heaven Madzudzo whom I used to indulge with. So that failure to have closure of losing a friend triggered me into stopping, giving birth to the Safe Heaven Trust I established in his honour. We are now in the process of establishing a medical rehabilitation Centre in Chitungwiza.”

More than one in four adults living with serious mental health problems also have a substance use problem.