THE call by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) for urgent support and increased investment in mental health services, particularly for children, should be taken very seriously by the government.

In its report titled ‘‘The State of the World’s Children 2021’’, Unicef has emphasised the urgent need for a comprehensive approach to promote good mental health for every child and protect vulnerable children amidst the raging Covid-19 pandemic.

Chillingly, the report estimates that 13 percent of adolescents aged 10-19 globally live with a diagnosed mental disorder.

Despite the increasing demand for mental health services, only two percent of government health budgets are allocated to mental health spending, less than US$1 per person, in some of the poorest countries.

Clearly, these are woefully inadequate and fall far short of meeting pressing mental challenges.

A report published by Kushinga a few years ago titled “Mental health in Zimbabwe: Findings from a comprehensive system analysis in Zimbabwe” lauded the government for coming up with very progressive interventions such as the Mental Health Act, Mental Health Policy  and Mental Health Strategy which surpass those of many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report, however, decried the fact that mental health services had no fixed line budget and were poorly funded by the Zimbabwe government.

Soberingly, the report revealed that the allocation for mental health services was less than one percent of the national budget.

Due to the poor financial support from the government, it is not surprising that some graduates in mental health psychiatry, nursing, and occupational therapy move to other countries largely because of poor salaries.

We hope the government will take seriously the special initiative for mental health and the Zimbabwe mental health investment case launched by Vice President and minister of Health and Child Care Constantino Chiwenga last year.

The initiative seeks to achieve universal health coverage for mental health, advance mental health policies, advocacy and human rights, and scale up quality mental health interventions and services.

According to the vice president, the mental health investment case will facilitate the assessment of the current national mental health system so as to identify mechanisms for scaling-up mental health promotion, prevention, and care.

Hopefully the government will live up to its promise.

 and facilitate the establishment of treatment packages for substance use disorders and child psychiatry disorders, decentralisation of services and improved access to mental health facilities.