Stakeholders have asked the government to increase the budget that is allocated to tackling mental health if the problem is to be solved.
Barbra Kalimba, the Vice President of the Uganda Counselling Association, said that government should prioritize the problem of mental health since it needs proper mental health to be executed better.
Speaking at the opening of the 3-day Uganda National Mental Health Conference held at Silver Springs Hotel in Kampala, Kalimba cited the need to implement new modes of treatment for administering mental health care.
“We also want the government to increase funding for the health budget and be prioritized. The increased financing will enable us to reduce the problem,” she said.
She said that among other causes; mental health problems are caused by lack of money, losing a job, being scared of death, depression, anxiety, over drinking and smoking.
According to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Health and Uganda Counselling Association, about 14 million Ugandans are mentally sick with a majority suffering from depression and anxiety disorders.
Apparently, mental health is funded by 1% of the total budget that is allocated to the Ministry of Health.
Meanwhile, Dr. Juliet Nakku, the Executive Director of Butabika Hospital, said that the poor funding of the sector has even crippled the number of medical workers.
She said there are less than 50 of the needed psychiatrists.
“Even the counsellors, in our hospitals, they are not employed. So, I appeal to government through the Ministries of Health and Public Service to employ them so they can extend services to people before the situation gets worse,” she said.
She added: “In terms of financing, we are at around 0.7% of the total ministry of Health budget, so, we need increased financing.”
The problem, she said, increases annually, and WHO predicts that by 2030, Mental Health will be the biggest cause of disability in the world.
Speaking at the conference, Dr. Hafsa Lukwata Ssentamu, the Assistant Commissioner Mental Health at the Ministry of Health, said that many people are having mental health problems and many of them, unfortunately, keep home suffering in silence.
“There is a lot of stress going on. Currently, we are seeing an economic decline, remember it came in after Covid-19. People have not picked up economically from where they were. People are not doing well, especially head of families who are failing to make ends meet. Children are going back to school; others are not yet back. Another thing is drugs, alcohol, marijuana addiction and that alone is causing mental disorder,” said Dr Hafsa.
She said that government is currently getting special medicine to ensure that each and every facility has some medicine to help people that are suffering from mental health problems.
The 3-day conference has been organised under the theme: “Make Mental Health for all a National Priority.”
The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Forum on Mental Health, Geoffrey Macho, urged government to mainstream mental health treatment in all government hospitals by increasing funds for psychiatric treatment, upgrading the Mental Health Unit under the Ministry of Health into a department, among others.
“We request government to put budgetary plans into the budget of the Ministry of Health concerning mental health because the money allocated to the unit of mental health is very little. We also request that this unit is upgraded to a department because 14 million people is not a small number. This is more than a quarter of the country’s population,” Macho said.
He urged that government urgently takes over the supply of mental health medicine which has been left in the hands of the private sector which sells it expensively.