“Don’t call them junkies” 


AS the country battles alarming drug abuse and addiction levels amongst young people, a National Arts Council official has made a motherly appeal for Zambians to stop calling addicts as Junkies because the term is discriminatory and may push them further from seeking help.


Addressing the 2023 Mental Health Symposium in Lusaka yesterday, Mwiche Chikungu, the National Arts Council assistant director said she disliked the term Junkies.


Chikungu feels the term “Junkies” is discriminatory and may make young people being called that name feel like they can’t be “normal” people again.


She noted that Zambia’s statistics on mental health remained a challenge among young people because they fail to speak out for fear of stigma.


“The term Junkie, I am not comfortable with it because it puts you in the catergory that feels like there is no going back. So, I would like to ask all of you to avoid this word junk because it labels stigma and makes you feel that you can’t go back,”  said Chikungu.


“Mental health amongst the youth is a topic many people do not want to talk about because of the stigma and taboo that surrounds it. It is assumed that because you are young you do not face any challenges and therefore do not need support from the system. The Youth and youth artists in particular are challenged with a new era of globalization that has contributed to the erosion of the family structures.”


She said stigma had increased the loneliness of the youth who spend many hours alone.


“This has resulted in many people developing mental health problems. Ladies and gentlemen, it is apparent that we are a disconnected society and the artists among you would agree that art is a lonely venture. Creativity needs solitude and many hours of silence to bring about those works of art that you hear in the bars, galleries and libraries. It is therefore apparent that there is an urgent need to find a place where our creators can be provided with help,” he said.


And UPND National Youth Chairman Gilbert Liswaniso who graced the Symposium said the collective efforts to address mental health challenges would contribute to the overall development of communities and the prosperity of the nation.

Liswaniso said education and awareness play a pivotal role in breaking down the barriers surrounding mental health.


He said it was everyone’s duty to create an environment where they would openly discuss their mental health concerns without fear of judgment or stigma.


“Together, we must advocate for robust mental health policies and legislation. It is crucial that we ensure the allocation of sufficient resources to mental health services, including prevention, treatment, and support systems. Let us work towards establishing a framework that prioritizes mental health at both the national and local levels. By doing so, we can empower individuals, families, and communities to access the care they need.”


“We must invest in mental health literacy programs that reach all segments of society. By promoting knowledge and understanding, we can combat the prevailing misconceptions and eradicate the stigma associated with mental health. It is through education that we can foster empathy, compassion, and support for those facing mental health challenges.”


He urged youth to actively engage in mental health initiatives and amplify voices in solidarity with those affected, and work towards creating youth-led solutions.


Meanwhile, Addiction Recovery Coach Daniel Mbazimba said there was more young people addicted to pornographic material masturbation due to increase of health issues.


He said to control the vice, the community must look at the behaviour and control it not th

e vice.


Kalemba May, 06, 2023


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