YONECO has called for intensification of counselling in schools in order to address high cases of drug and substance abuse among students.

YONECO Executive Director MacBain Mkandawire made the call in reaction to findings that most students are engaged in drug and alcohol abuse which is the common cause of mental illness.

He said teachers should be trained so that they can detect early signs of drug and substance abuse among students in schools.

“Teachers are only trained in basic psychology and yet they do not use that when they get to school because they are busy teaching and they do not have time for the students,” he said.

Mkandawire added that schools should have full time counsellors who can offer moral support to students.

He also suggested that life skills education in schools should be strengthened in order to move away from the current focus on passing examinations.

“We need to teach young people life skills for a living and help them to meet peer pressure,” he said.

One of the students, Chisomo Banda of Traditional Authority Kalumbu in Lilongwe district who had a mental disorder since when he was 16 years old, said he used to smoke cannabis and drinking alcohol while at a boarding secondary school due to peer pressure.

26 year-old Chisomo is now mentally stable after receiving treatment and counselling.

Zomba Mental Hospital Psychiatric Clinician Harry Kawiya said such a move can go a long way in dealing with high cases of mental disorders in the country.

YONECO in partnership with Zomba Mental Hospital and Tackle Africa is currently implementing a three-year Comic Relief funded mental health care project in the districts of Nkhotakota, Lilongwe and Zomba.

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