The leadership of Bushenyi District has expressed concerns about the rising cases of mental illness, attributing it to poverty and drug abuse. This concern was raised during a high-level stakeholders’ engagement meeting held at Tuzza Hotel in Bushenyi Ishaka Municipality on a Thursday. The meeting aimed to assess the extent of the integration of mental health services into primary healthcare, communities, and schools.
Dr. Fredrick Makumbi, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Makerere University, emphasized that domestic violence, poverty, and drug abuse are significant contributors to the country’s mental health challenges. He noted that up to 85% of individuals in need of mental health care in hospitals and health centers lack access to these services. A study conducted in four districts, including Bushenyi, Kapchorwa, Adjumani, and Butambala, revealed that patients with mental health problems face difficulties accessing medical services in healthcare facilities.
Dr. Makumbi also highlighted that a lack of self-discipline and willpower is one of the main causes of mental illness. In schools, students are experiencing various forms of mental illness, such as excessive activity, stubbornness, depression, epilepsy, and social isolation. Without proper handling, the country may see an increase in such cases in the coming years.
Dr. Juliet Nakku, the Executive Director of Butabika National Referral Hospital, stated that mental health has been given policy priority in Uganda as part of the national minimum package. However, there are still gaps in the delivery of mental health services at the primary care, community, and school levels. She emphasized that mental health problems are risk factors for various physical health issues of public concern and that integrating mental health into primary healthcare has been shown to be cost-effective in achieving desirable treatment outcomes.
Dr. Edward Mwesigye, the Bushenyi District Health Officer, pointed out that people with mental health issues often face isolation and stigma, even though mental illness is a treatable condition like any other. He lamented the challenge of people seeking help from churches and traditional healers instead of medical facilities, which often results in delayed treatment.
Enock Gumisiriza, Assistant Commissioner in the Ministry of Education and Sports responsible for career guidance, stressed the importance of proper training for teachers and mentors in schools who deal directly with students facing mental health issues. He emphasized the need for teachers to focus on counseling students to prevent their engagement in harmful activities and to explore all opportunities for addressing the challenges of integrating mental health services into schools.