The Manzini Psychiatric Centre in eSwatini grapples with a mounting backlog of patients seeking psychological and mental services.

  The surge in demand has led to individuals being placed on a five-month waiting list, exacerbating their vulnerable mental health conditions—a significant concern for the hospital as it may result in inadequate support for suicide prevention.

As the sole psychiatric center in the country, the hospital faces substantial challenges in meeting this escalating demand. On December 4, 2020, the Centre faced a shocking event when over one hundred patients escaped during a riot over food shortages.

This incident underscores the difficulties faced by the institution, given its limited staff and resources. Decentralization Urgently Needed Nurses at the Psychiatric Centre argue that the challenges necessitate urgent decentralization of mental health services in the country.

Establishing mental health facilities in various regions would alleviate the burden on the hospital, enabling better resource distribution and improved accessibility for patients awaiting treatment. This move would also ensure individuals in remote regions can access the care they need.

The National Psychiatric Hospital, located in Manzini at Two Sticks, was established in 1961 and has historically played a crucial role in providing psychiatric services to the nation. Mayibongwe Masangane, Secretary General of the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU), decried the conditions at the hospital, highlighting the anomaly of having only one psychiatric hospital in a country dealing with diverse mental health issues.

Masangane emphasized the overburdening of the healthcare system, leading to improper diagnoses and a rise in suicides due to a lack of personnel and capacity. He called for the functionality of mental health services in various regions and criticized the understaffed hospitals where trained nurses in mental health end up performing general nursing duties.

Even the health departments in clinics and hospitals in various regions are non-functional or operate at half capacity, according to Masangane. He urged these departments to be operational, utilizing the Manzini hospital as a referral center for admitted patients. Government spokesperson Alpheous Nxumalo referred questions to Principal Secretary Khanya Mabuza in the Ministry of Health, who was unavailable for comment at the time of publishing.

Several years ago, psychiatric nurses faced the challenge of releasing patients due to drug shortages caused by a nationwide health crisis resulting from the government's failure to pay suppliers. The nurses reported violence from patients, describing the wards as battle rings due to the lack of necessary medication.