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An intern social worker in the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication, and Social Welfare says parents and guardians have a huge role to play in supporting their children's ability to work through mental health and nurturing their positive wellbeing.

Vanessa Gertze Shivute said this at the Mental Health Awareness Day held at Origo Primary School in Rehoboth on Tuesday. Mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities.

However, children who face mental health disorders have serious learning, behavioural, and emotional challenges that cause them extreme anxiety. Hence, Shivute says it is important that parents and guardians create environments where children can speak freely about their mental health to avoid them getting distressed.

"They need to start being more emotionally involved in their children's lives because you will find that a parent brings in a child at the office with real issues with behavioural issues, but we go back to ask where the child picked up this behaviour, and most of the time the parents do not even know that this child is mostly suffering or emotionally overwhelmed."

A counsellor at Origo Primary School, Adelaide Luango, also spoke at the event. "Our biggest challenge is sometimes admitting that the condition their children have is caused mostly by them. That's the biggest issue we are facing with most parents admitting what they have done wrong, apologising to children, and trying to work things out because whenever I suggest or even just get parents to allow their children to receive counselling, it's already a whole issue."

The Mental Health Awareness Day was attended by learners from 11 different schools around the town of Rehoboth.

The event had an interactive presentation on bullying, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, and the impact they all have on children's mental health.

"Mental health is very important because there are small children who are busy with suicide attempts. Most of them do things that are wrong, but they don't know because they are not aware, and you never know what someone is going through because they will be coming to school happy, so mental health is important," said Mbali Mpofu, a learner at the school.

Rehoboth Deputy Mayor, Venus Klazen, said there is a need for Namibia to invest in mental health research and campaign to find ways to address mental health issues.

"It's a sensitive topic, and not many experts are working on it, to change this, Namibia needs more awareness campaigns, workshops, cooperation between researchers and the government, and investment in mental health research to help people with their mental health well-being."

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July Nafuka