Health

A first in mental rehabilitation
BY A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Sprawling over 98 acres along the Harare-Mutare road in Ruwa, Tirivanhu
Therapeutic Community, a structured rehabilitation centre for people recovering from severe and p

ersistent mental disorders, is living testimony to the success of a holistic psycho-social community based rehabilitation scores of people with mental disorders who have passed through the programme in the two decades that the centre has been in existence have since been reunited with their families and integrated into the community.
The name Tirivanhu (We are also human) is inspired by the stigma and discrimination to which people with mental disorders are subjected from a society which views them as a burden.
Tirivanhu’s secret to success lies in its ability to give to people with disorders what the rest of society denies them – a sense of responsibility and control over their lives. From the moment one sets foot on the farm, the members undergoing rehabilitation take over, explaining the objectives of the centre and the intricacies involved in the running of the centre’s diverse projects such as the rabbit breeding project, calendar making project, fowl rearing, nutritional garden, market gardening , maize growing and cattle rearing projects.
The projects are run entirely by the members, four of whom are women, with the help of three supporting staff. This sense of ownership and empowerment is complemented by the diverse services the centre offers in its community based rehabilitation care design. These include clinical care, health education, social and technical skills training, group dynamics, individual and family support, future realistic plans and extended rehabilitation options.
The Executive Director of the Zimbabwe National Association for Mental Health (ZIMNAMH), Mrs Elizabeth Matare, affectionately known as ‘Elizabeth’ by all the members and the driving force behind the Tirivanhu Therapeutic Community, said that while the centre did everything in its power to empower people with mental disorders, it was the duty of the government to provide adequate medication. The recently-launched Mental Health Policy makes provision for the supply, availability and accessibility of psychotropic drugs at all levels. But these drugs are currently unavailable because of financial constraints.
“The clients are referred to us by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare institutions or discharged mental patients from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs (Prison Department). The organization identifies the person’s functioning ability and agrees on a rehabilitation programme that seeks to promote and maximize the person’s level of functioning or talent,” explained Mrs Matare.
The centre runs a thriving horticultural project and produces a variety of vegetables for local consumption and for sale. In addition to a cattle rearing project, the centre also runs a rabbit breeding project and a fowl breeding project.
Despite its successes, the centre is in desperate need of funds to sustain current activities and cater for more clients.
“The administrative grant from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare that the organisation received this year ($30 000) is not enough to meet our needs,” said Mrs Matare.
The philosophical Shepherd Mapfumo, a client who was referred to the centre by medical staff from Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital in April this year after being imprison edunder the Mental Health Act of 1996, has found peace and respect since engaging in the rehabilitation programme. “This place is like paradise to me. You learn a lot of skills and you can also read. It is better to get wisdom and knowledge than riches,” he said.

Magaisa 45
Editorial 44

Post published in: News