According to a recent study released by the Health ministry on World Mental Health Day, mental health challenges are a significant concern in Uganda. The study, conducted by Makerere University School of Public Health and Butabika Hospital, involved 2,067 participants from various regions in the country.
Dr. Juliet Nakku, the lead investigator, emphasized the need to integrate mental health services into primary healthcare due to the prevalence of anxiety, moderate and severe depression, especially among females. These challenges are often linked to factors such as drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, poverty, head injuries affecting cognitive function, and stress from work, school, and personal relationships.
The study also revealed a surprising high rate of mental health issues among children in schools. About one in three children exhibited emotional problems, a rate three times higher than the national average in the United Kingdom. This high prevalence negatively impacts their home life and academic performance.
Additionally, exit interviews with individuals leaving primary healthcare facilities indicated a significant presence of anxiety and depression. Public health facilities in Uganda have limited knowledge and skills for handling mental health cases, and there is a considerable stigma against those with mental challenges. This stigma reduces the willingness to seek care and hampers the reintegration of patients into their communities.
The government aims to improve mental health services by decentralizing care to lower-level healthcare facilities and increasing awareness and education regarding mental health issues, particularly in schools. The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is “Mental health is a universal human right,” highlighting the importance of protecting everyone’s mental well-being and providing accessible, quality care for those in need.
The World Health Organization emphasizes that good mental health is fundamental to overall well-being, as a significant portion of the global population is affected by mental health conditions, including adolescents and young people.