It is a common assumption that mental health is of little importance in low-income countries such as Uganda. However, the body of evidence showed that the East-African country has been making a conscious effort to introduce tools for enhancing mental health to primary help. Uganda’s government recognized deteriorating mental wellness as a public threat in 1996. This paper will discuss the rationale behind Uganda’s mental health policies and legislation in place.
Some demographic cohorts are at increased risk of developing a mental disorder. For instance, one study showed that mothers from rural regions in Uganda were more likely to be depressed and neglect their children’s nutrition, thus, aggravating the situation further (Ashaba 1303). Another example is northern Uganda where two-decades-long civil conflict resulted in soaring rates of PTSD in residents (Mugisha 25). All in all, the intervention was justified by the growing burden of mental illness due to a variety of factors: high poverty levels, unemployment, alarming statistics on HIV/ AIDS prevalence, and sexual violence.
As for the regulations in place, currently, the country relies on the Uganda National Health Policy and HSSIP (health sector strategy and investment plan) that ensures the deliverance of mental health services (Mugisha 25). The said two institutional tools highlight psychiatric care as one of the critical elements of primary help. Mental health is also mentioned as one of the top priorities within the Uganda National Development Plan aimed at accelerating socio-economic progress and bringing populations out of poverty (Hanlon e88437).
The key components of the mental health intervention are health practitioners’ heightened awareness and surveillance of patients, easier access to medication, and beds in psychiatric units and mental hospitals. Despite the government taking steps in the right direction, a lot has yet to be done, for instance, putting the national policy on mental, neurological, and substance abuse services that have remained in the draft since 2005 to good use.
Ashaba, Scholastic, et al. “Maternal Depression and Malnutrition in Children in Southwest Uganda: A Case Control Study.” BMC public health, vol. 15, no. 1, 2015, p. 1303.
Hanlon, Charlotte, et al. “Challenges and Opportunities for Implementing Integrated Mental Health Care: A District Level Situation Analysis from Five Low-and middle-income Countries.” PloS one 9.2 (2014): e88437.
Mugisha, James, et al. “Towards Understanding Governance Issues in Integration of Mental Health into Primary Health Care in Uganda.” International Journal of Mental Health Systems, vol. 10, no. 1, 2016, p. 25.