The Zimbabwe Life Project (ZLP) team recently completed their second visit to Zimbabwe making their return to the UK on October 5th. This year I had the opportunity to accompany them and to see how they support the mental health services in Zimbabwe and I must say, it was incredible to see the dedication and commitment in each of the team members. Some of the volunteers left behind their children, spouses and they all funded themselves while taking annual leave to go and deliver mental health workshops and distribute vital donations to Parirenyatwa and Ingutsheni Hospitals. Some of the volunteers went to Bulawayo and others stayed in Harare but both teams delivered mental health training workshops on quality improvement such as restrictive practice, quality academy, suicide prevention, substance misuse, etc. It was really good to see how the mental health staff in Zimbabwe warmly received the ZLP team and how keen they were to participate in the programme.
The Friendship Bench team participated and presented different approaches to mental health and interventions that are helping to improve quality of life through therapy delivered by lay health workers. Medical staff from the University of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health & Child Care also attended and presented on how they are doing their best to improve the quality of care with limited resources. Workshops in Harare were held at Parirenyatwa School of Nursing which were attended by staff from Parirenyatwa Annex, Harare Psychiatry Hospital and other mental health teams including Tirivanhu Rehabilitation Center that provides aftercare to mental health patients in the community. In Bulawayo the workshops were held at Ingustheni Hospital.
The overall feedback from both ZLP and mental health staff in Zimbabwe is that the training workshops inspired them to continuously develop their practice and knowledge. Both sides are looking forward to future sessions and visits.
ZLP’s contribution to supporting mental health services was acknowledged by the Ministry of Health & Child Care and also by the Foreign Ministry & International Trade. Parirenyatwa School of Nursing appreciated ZLP for the cross pollination of knowledge and skills in their graduation speech. A ZLP trophy was given to the best student nurse in community psychiatry.