More Ugandan women than men battling mental illness - study

A joint study conducted by Butabika National Referral Mental hospital and Makerere University has found that more Ugandan women are battling severe anxiety and depression than their male counterparts who are mostly affected by alcohol abuse.

2,067 people were sampled from the districts of Kapchorwa, Adjumani, Bushenyi, and Butambala where participants were selected from both schools, those seeking health services in lower health facilities and the community.

According to the released results; 39 per cent of the women suffered severe anxiety against 24 per cent of males. When it came to depression, 12.6 per cent were women and 5 per cent men. The study was meant to assess the extent of integration of mental health services into primary health care, communities, and schools in selected districts in the country.


According to Prof Fredrick Makumbi, a lecturer at the Makerere University School of Public Health who was one of the researchers on the study, generally, for every three people, one had severe anxiety and when they went ahead to assess people’s attitudes about mental illness, a number of the respondents believed that mental illness is behavior-related.


Dr Juliet Nakku a senior consultant psychiatrist at Butabika hospital who led the study team says their results show a high prevalence of mental illness and a high need for medication as nine out of every ten people they surveyed believed that medication can be effective in helping them, although only a few were enrolled into care citing long distances, inadequate facilities and drug stockouts as part of the deterring reasons.


Also, nearly four in ten people believe the mentally ill are in danger partly because a significant number of people still seek care from religious leaders or traditional healers before going to the hospital. 9.3 per cent were found to be seeking treatment from religious leaders and another 5.3 per cent from traditional healers.

Nakku says as a solution, there is a need to incorporate mental health services in community programmes to give it the attention it deserves like other key diseases such as HIV that are affecting a large number of people. She says having social workers in the community could go the extra mile to help link people who need treatment interventions into care.