Monday 1 February 2021


HEALTH experts have advised members of the public to desist from depending on alcohol and smoking to get through the day owing to mental health, economic and social challenges caused by Covid-19.

The global pandemic has killed 1 217 Zimbabweans and left many in depression and others contemplating suicide as they are failing to cope with pressure. The ongoing global Covid-19 induced lockdowns have left many jobless.

Recently the Ministry of Health and Child Care raised concern over the psychological impact of Covid-19 on Zimbabweans which has led to the rise of social problems including domestic violence.

The increase in community transmissions of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe has raised focus on the population’s mental health.

Psychological and social problems continue to rise and consequences such as stress, anxiety, depression, frustration, uncertainty and domestic violence are on the increase. The Ministry also called on members of the public to take care of their mental health during these trying times.

Yesterday, the World Health Organisation in Zimbabwe tweeted that people should reduce intake of alcohol and cigarettes during lockdown to take care of their mental health.

Dr Mxolisi Ngwenya who works at a public hospital in Bulawayo said many people find it easy to resort to smoking, substance abuse and alcohol to deal with fear, anxiety and stress. He said these practices are detrimental to one’s health and they have never solved problems.

“It is understandable that a lot of people are going through a lot of pressure in terms of their livelihoods having been disrupted and their sources of income. In terms of social interactions as humans are social beings they cannot go out because of the lockdown or bid their loved ones farewell as funerals also have restrictions,” said Dr Ngwenya.

“People then resort to other things or other avenues to de-stress but the things are addictive and if they develop a reliance on smoking and alcohol to get through the day, they may not survive after the lockdown,” he said.

Dr Ngwenya said a number of cancers are associated with smoking and these practices are harmful to one’s physical health.

“These bad habits also have an effect on mental health as they can cause psychosis where one perceives things that do not exist or they start hearing voices. The abuse of marijuana has been linked to schizophrenia and we know that substance abuse does encourage suicidal thoughts,” he said.

“We found out that a majority of people who commit suicide do so under the influence of drugs such as alcohol.

There is the component of depression where alcohol is known to create a vicious cycle. Drinking is an art of borrowing happiness from tomorrow because when one drinks today, they may be happy but then tomorrow they wake up with a hang-over and then plunge back to depression,” he said.

Dr Ngwenya said resorting to alcohol and smoking can be fatal as prolonged use of these substances may lead one’s health to deteriorate.

“The effect that comes at a higher cost to the family and loved ones is we know people become abusive when using alcohol, drugs or smoking. We have high cases of GBV and it can break families and these are some of the problems that come with substance abuse,” said Dr Ngwenya.

Miss Jacqeline Nkomo, a local psychologist said instead of focusing on the gloom that Covid-19 has brought, people must remain positive.

She said resorting to alcohol and smoking to deal with challenges and stress is a sign of weakness and weakens one’s ability to remain resilient in depressing times.

“When one is depressed or stressed, they usually find a way to numb the pain, people feel their lives are on hold due to lockdown. They think they are no longer living as they cannot go on with their day to day lives as they used to. We can’t even breathe in and out freely as we are always wearing masks and that can be a source of stress,” said Miss Nkomo.

“At the end of the day one may just sit at home drink and forget all these depressing stories around Covid and the impact it has economically. Others have lost relatives or jobs hence they end up indulging in alcohol and smoking which may have ripple effects,” she said.

She said substance abuse may lead to addiction which could become a bigger problem than the depression caused by Covid-19.

“We should be positive about Covid as it did not only bring gloom because for once families can sit down, bond and learn more about each other unlike in the normal days when people became total strangers while living under one roof. Now, they can have supper together. They see each other, spend time with their children and be in sync with what children are going through. For once family relations are being restored as people are spending time together unlike in the fast-paced world we used to live in,” she said.

Renowned health expert Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said instead of drinking beer and smoking, people can play games as adults, develop new physical hobbies and spend quality time with their loved ones during the lockdown.

“I do not encourage smoking at all and alcohol because we want people to live long and be productive in life. I think people should sit at home with their families and revert to story telling like we used to do in the olden days,” said Prof Ngwenya.

“This is time for men to be with their wives and love them as they have all the time to relax. There have been concerns that those who smoke, once they get Covid they do not do well as smoking causes chronic irritations in the lungs. So, it causes high mortality among smokers,” he said.

Dr Ngwenya urged people to deal with stress through activities like gardening and playing with their kinsmen. Herald


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