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Last week, Malawians were left with mixed emotions after former second deputy speaker of Parliament, Clement Chiwaya, decided to gruesomely end his life right within the precincts of Parliament, when he allegedly produced a gun in front of Clerk of Parliament (CoP) Fiona Kalemba and aimed it straight for his head. We are told the bullet went through the ear.

That it really happened on our own soil is still too hard to digest for a lot of people, not to mention the heartbroken family. This is the stuff that we can never imagine and only get to see in make-believe ‘whodunit’ movies, but here we were witnessing the unthinkable unfolding right before our very eyes. I do not believe our professional Police will just treat it as an ‘open and shut’ case. Elsewhere, this is where you get to see top-notch detectives spring to action… Scotland Yard quickly comes to mind.

Anyway, that is besides the point. What I wanted to highlight is that there is a silent growing problem in our midst and if we do not quickly address it, it could cause more harm that one can think of. This monster, ladies and gentlemen, is called mental health. Many people in our beloved country are struggling with a wide range of issues and these, in turn, are leading to stress; be it physical/ trauma (injury, infection, surgery, over exertion, pollution etc), psychological / emotional (resentments, fears, frustration, sadness, anger, grief, bereavement) , psychosocial / relationship/ marriage difficulties (partner, siblings, children, family, employer, co-workers), loss of employment, investments, bankruptcy, isolation and pyschospiritual (a crisis of values, meaning and purpose, joyless living), according to www.mentalhelp.net.

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People are going through a lot of strife and the best we can all do is to lend them an ear or a shoulder to lean on. No matter how ‘silly’ or ‘taxing’ it might sound, let us be there for one another. In the Parliament scenario, I cannot begin to imagine how the shooting affected the CoP and other people that were within earshot when the gunshot went off and it had dawned on them that somebody had taken his life.

If memory serves me right, this is not the first time we are talking of a Malawi politician dying by the gun. In 2014, when former president Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party won the general election, one Godffrey Kamanya who had been a member of Parliament plunged the country into a state of shock when he took his own life by shooting himself. Another politician of repute, Sir James Makhumula, who had been active during the United Democratic Front era, was also said to have committed suicide by shooting himself, though some members of his family called for an inquest following suspicions.

Death is never pleasant and it is even more hurtful for the ones left behind if one goes the unnatural way of taking own life. In fact, it is sad that the issue of mental health problems only seems to come under the spotlight where those with a name are involved. Take a look around and you will realise that our brothers and sisters in rural areas have been taking their lives needlessly and nobody seems to give a hoot. In fact, the other day I heard this story about a woman who decided to end her life after being pestered by members of her chipereganya group about cash which she claimed had been stolen by thieves who raided her home. Please, ladies and gentlemen, do not be the reason why somebody’s life is placed in harm’s way.

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So, as we commemorate World Mental Health Day tomorrow, spare a minute for the people we have lost and those going through a lot in their lives. Together we can make it; as they say, united we stand and divided we fall. When the load is too heavy to bear, let us be each other’s comforter or, better yet, take it to the man up above in prayer.

Otherwise, It is time we brought the issue of mental health into the limelight and did something about it.

Of hard working traffic police officers

Last week, I did share with you an unpleasant experience I witnessed on the road involving a traffic police officer, a kabaza operator and his passenger. I have noticed there are now more officers on hand at the place and hopefully, this should help avoid any sort of commotion during peak hours.

Speaking of which, there is this other traffic police officer who, without a doubt, enjoys fully what he does when controlling the flow of traffic on the road. I have seen him at Chichiri Roundabout near the shopping mall, almost wiggling as he blows his whistle with which he directs cars to either stop or proceed at the intersection. You can therefore see that there are some good apples within the Malawi Police Service and these deserve a pat on the back. To that officer at the roundabout; I salute you, sir!

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