Dressed in a purple golf shirt and a pair of black trousers, Sankhani Kamanga, 22, of Khwechu village in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Kafuzira in Nkhotakota district walks out of his house straight to a small brick tailoring shop which is located about 40 meters away.

Sankhani goes inside and brings out his electronic sewing machine which is powered by solar electricity and sits down on the shop’s veranda ready for the day’s work.

“My father bought this electronic sewing machine for me from South Africa and I built this shop myself to start this business,” he says.

Through the thriving tailoring business, Kamanga’s life has changed for the better financially.

“This business is helping me a lot because I am able to buy soap, food and also cater for other basic needs for my family. On daily basis I make not less than K1, 000 from the tailoring shop and I save some,” he says.

Sankhani is one of the mental health stabilized persons from the area who received counselling and financial literacy training a three-year project which is being funded by Comic Relief. The project is called ‘Passing and supporting: Building Tactics for Community Mental Health Care’ which YONECO is implementing in partnership with Zomba Mental Hospital and Tackle Africa.

Sankhani, who is married and two children, narrates that he became mentally ill unexpectedly due to smoking cannabis and alcohol abuse.

“I became ill unexpectedly when I was already married and fathering one child,” he says.

Through the project, Sankhani started receiving treatment and was also introduced to a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA).

“I took some money from the Village Savings and Loans Association which I have invested it into farming during the 2019/2020 season. I also part of the money to buy pigeons which have so far multiplied,” he says.

Father to Sankhani, Thomson Dumang’ombe says his son became mentally ill in 2018 when he was working in South Africa.

He hailed the mental health care project for the support rendered to her son.

“I am very happy now to see that my son is very well now,” he says.

Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) at Kasitu Health Center in Nkhotakota district, Jonathan Chirwa said the financial literacy trainings have helped to improve the lives of mental health stabilized persons in the area.

“At first they did not know how to generate or save money but after the literacy training some of them are doing some small scale businesses,” he says.

Chirwa says through the project 70 stabilized mental health illness persons have been trained from the area under his jurisdiction.

He says stigma among stabilized mental health illness persons was high in the area before the commencement of the project but he said the situation has now improved following sensitization meetings.

Chirwa says drug and substance abuse is a major cause of mental health illnesses among young people in the area.

“Many youths just stay idle and this leads to smoking of marijuana and alcohol abuse,” he says.

Chirwa adds that they are working hand in hand with community structures, caregivers, traditional leaders to sensitize youths on the dangers of drug and substance abuse.

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