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Investing in child mental health not an option-experts

By Carol Natukunda, Gloria Nakajubi

Added 13th July 2016 01:07 PM

Currently, Uganda invests just about 1% of its total health sector budget to mental health.

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The First Lady and minister for education, Janet Museveni speaks at the First Annual Conference on Child Behavioral Health in Sub-Saharan Africa at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala on July 12,2016. Photos/ Eddie Ssejjoba

Currently, Uganda invests just about 1% of its total health sector budget to mental health.

By Gloria Nakajubi and Carol Natukunda

As deliberations at the First Annual Conference on Child Behavioural Health in sub-Saharan Africa continue at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, mental health experts are reiterating the increasing need to invest in child mental health.

 

Currently, Uganda invests just about 1% of its total health sector budget to mental health. This has left mental health issues in the hands of inadequate or lack of skilled health workers, but also drug stock outs most of the time.

As explained by Makerere University’s Professor Edward Kirumira, if government is to achieve Vision 2020 and later Vision 2040, there is need to invest in young people and child mental health is key.

 

“You can only educate a child with a peaceful mind. This therefore goes to highlight that child mental health is the core of every other investment to achieve the national objectives,” he said.

He argued that to achieve a greater good, the different stakeholders need to work together and create a synergy. This includes civil society, academia and government.

Uganda is one of the youngest nations in the World and according to statistics, at least 1 out of every 5 adolescents is facing a mental health challenge. This has thus inhibited such young people from achieving their full potential.

According to Dr Charles Luwagga, a programme manager at Child Fund Uganda, the common presentations of child mental illnesses is epilepsy, post-traumatic stress, hysteria anxiety and mood disorders.

 

He added that these are most times as a result of psychological trauma like parental separation, domestic violence, violence against children in homes and alcohol abuse. But also HIV/AIDS, poor early childhood development and poverty are major causal factors.

 “Psychiatric clinical officers are not available at the lower health facilities and therefore there is no one specially trained to handle these cases. There is therefore a need to have these services decentralised,” Luwagga said.

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