24 year-old Vitumbiko Phesele of Chimoyo village in the area of Traditional Authority Kafuzira in Nkhotakota District recounts of the difficult period when she suffered a mental illness.
“In 2016 while undergoing training at Mtakataka Police Training School in Dedza district I started feeling malaria symptoms but after being given treatment the situation became worse because I started mumbling unstoppably for three days,” she says.
Vitumbiko also recalls the time when she was admitted at Zomba Mental Hospital for two weeks and later withdrawn from the training due to mental illness.
“After my situation had improved I was discharged from Zomba Mental Hospital but after arriving at school I was told by management that I could not continue with the training hence I was sent back home,” she says.
After Vitumbiko returned to her home village, life back was very tough. The thought of going back to school and how to get money for day to day life was driving her crazy.
“It was a difficult moment in my life because I could have gone into marriage, having children and ending up as house wife but I did not give up,” she says.
But despite the setback, Vitumbiko did not give up her dream of excelling through education.
“In 2017 I applied for a Bachelor of Arts in Education at Mzuzu University and I got selected,” she says.
However the move ended in another setback as despite being selected to pursue her education at the university, lack of school fees became a stumbling block.
Finally, Vitumbiko got a lifeline after she got employed by a local organization as a Data Clerk at Dwambazi Rural Hospital.
Following the introduction of a three year Comic Relief funded project called Passing and supporting: Building tactics for community mental health care project which Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) in partnership with Zomba Mental Hospital and Tackle Africa is implementing, Vitumbiko was provided counselling and training in financial literacy.
“Through the training I learnt that mental health issues can affect everyone so I accepted everything that has happened in my life and decided to move on with my life,” she says.
Vitumbiko joined a Village Savings and Loans (VSL) group and got a loan to start a small scale business.
“After selling some commodities such as water, yoghurt which l produce myself, l get a profit of about K3, 500 a day which I use for household needs and I keep K1, 000 for my savings,” she says.
Vitumbiko, now a stable mentally ill person, is back to school to realize her dream of getting tertiary education.
“I am now doing a weekend Diploma in Tourism Management programme at Mzuzu University,” she proudly says.