As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, causing disruption to both social and economic lives around the world, there have been growing concerns regarding people’s mental health.
The ongoing public health measures expose many people to experiencing situations linked to poor mental health outcomes, such as isolation and job loss. Hence, it is paramount that good ways to deal with mental issues be explored to improve people’s fitness, both physically and emotionally.
In Zambia, only a few can afford the services of a professional mental health expert, while the rest are left to make do with whatever coping mechanisms are within their individual or collective reach.
It is for this reason that a significant number of residents of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital are trekking to Chinyunyu hot springs, in Rufunsa district, a two hours drive from Lusaka to de-stress by releasing bodily or mental tension.
Chinyunyu hot springs is a tourist spot situated in Lusaka rural that often attracts both local and international visitors. Locals seek out the place because of its abundant water which is claimed to have many health benefits and can be used to bring order to one’s life and increase health tourism.
Even during the pandemic, the national heritage conservation commission site is a hive of activity throughout the week and particularly busy during weekends and public holidays.
Those found at the site said that water from the hot springs and the serene surroundings along with fresh air has a calming and healing effect on the mind.
Nebart Mumba, a Lusaka resident who claimed to have been on the verge of a life-threatening nervous breakdown said taking a hot bath at Chinyunyu hot springs helped him think clearly.
“The medical tourism trip to Chinyunyu hot springs was refreshing and worthwhile,” Mumba said.
Another Lusaka resident, Julian Mwango said visiting the site helped her overcome depression from the loss of a job resulting from economic challenges attributed to COVID-19 ramifications.
According to Lastone Gomah, a Zion Christian Church leader, Chinyunyu hot springs have for a long time provided both spiritual and physical relief to individuals in dire stress looking to find solutions to difficult life situations.
“To those that are spiritual, the water from the springs helps with ridding bad omens and bringing about success in different areas of life. The water has physical health benefits in that one can take a hot bath a few meters from the springs and feel rejuvenated,” said Gomah.
Clara Nanja, an ecologist, said bonding with nature can provide much-needed mental relief, more so during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic when people are under a lot of stress.
“This is the best time to bond with nature. Bonding with nature helps to release tension and comforts one to reflect and focus on things that truly matter,” Nanja said.
As an environmentalist, Nanja restated the importance of more people being encouraged to visit remote and rural areas where they can interact with and enjoy nature and thus release the tension and stress.
She added that COVID-19 offers an opportunity for Zambia to market her mental health capability through popularizing places like Chinyunyu hot springs as a mental health treatment destination.
A Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 found that many adults are reporting specific problems in their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty in sleeping or eating, increases in alcohol consumption or substance use, and worsening chronic conditions, due to worry and stress over the COVID-19.