Uganda: Rising Mental Illness Among Youth Worry Experts

Kampala — Health experts from Butabika National Referral Mental Hospital have raised concern over the increasing number of mental disability (mental health disorders) cases among youth in the past three years.

Mental health disorders refer to a wide range of mental health conditions that affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. These include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviours.

The increase in these conditions was revealed during the handover ceremony of the donation from GEMS Cambridge International School to Butabika hospital on Friday which was worth Shs15 million. The donation includes mattress, scholastic materials, plastic chairs and tables.

Dr David Basangwa, the institution's executive director, said due to lack of mental services at community health centres, it is one of the reasons why the number of cases are increasing at Butabika hospital annually.

"The number of patients is continuously increasing every other year. Three years ago, we had about 650 patients but as of now, we have more than 900 patients yet the official capacity is supposed to be 550 patients," he said.

Overflow

Dr Basangwa added that it was an overflow but they have to work with because they cannot send them anywhere else since it is the only referral hospital providing mental health services.

"However, we are happy about it because it indicates that the message we have been sending to communities is catching up. Previously, the mentally sick patients were not accessing treatment especially children. Majority were locked up indoors because families feared stigma but with our messages, it is opening up," he said.

Other challenges

Dr Basangwa added that human resource is also a challenge because they have a very tight structure where the ward that is supposed to accommodate 150 patients has two to three nurses which constraints them when it comes to care.

"The hospital is supposed to have 400 nurses with a ratio of one nurse to 40 patients. Currently, they have one nurse to 80 patients and the hospital has seven psychiatric doctors yet we are supposed to have 20 to be able to run the hospital very efficiently," he said.

Mr Robert Lakin, the principal of GEMS International School, said they agreed to have charity to support local communities and they have started with their neighbours, Butabika hospital, which they think needs more support to be able to look after mentally ill patients.

"We have managed to donate items worth Shs15 million, which we collected for a period of six months from parents and students," he said.

Mr Lakin added that as an educationist, his mind is to continue supporting the hospital.

He revealed that since students spend most of their time in class, there is need to have a good out door provision and they need something productive which add value to their learning journey.

According to Parliamentary Health Committee's report on the Mental Health Bill, 2014, Uganda ranks among the top six countries with the highest cases of mental illness in Africa, and has a 33 per cent overall global ranking.

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