KAMPALA - A holistic mental health care project was Friday launched at Kyambogo University by the University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Elly Katunguka.
The project is aimed at promoting awareness and fighting mental disorders among people before it becomes a huge threat in the country.
The project will be funded by a grant worth sh200m from Belgium.
The project coordinator Dr. James Mugisha, a senior lecturer on mental health and health systems and also a clinician at Butabika hospital, said the mental disorder is the leading cause of disabilities in Sub Saharan African.
“Although we still sing about HIV, malaria and other things, this burden of mental illness is likely to go up in the few years to come,” Mugisha warned.
He said that the Uganda mental policy framework has lots of gaps since the department of clinical services receives less than 4% of the entire mental health budget, adding that 60% of the budget goes to Butabika hospital.
“As a result of that, there is poor service delivery, which has contributed to fewer numbers of people seeking formal treatment. Less than 20% of the population goes for formal health services and the majority prefer going for spiritual health care,” Mugisha revealed.
Mugisha was baffled by the fact that the emphasis on health service delivery was still heavily dependent on the biomedical model.
“The biggest problem with the ministry is the dependency on drugs with no alternative, we need to think of other alternatives to manage mental disorders,” he said.
He revealed that the project is aimed at coming up with other alternatives to manage mental disorders putting physical exercise top on the agenda.
“There is a study that shows when people with mental disorders are involved in physical exercise; they show massive improvement, which reduces risks and promotes health. I am happy the ministry of health is taking it over,” Mugisha said
The project targets 14 referral hospitals in the country, which include Arua, Gulu, Lira, Kampala, Hoima, Mubende, Moroto, Fortportal, Jinja, Masaka referral hospitals.
He added that later on, the project will concentrate on schools and the elderly by implementing physical exercises.
Katunguka said he was glad that Kyambogo was partnering with Dr. Mugisha, Butabika hospital and the Ministry of health on mental health.
He asked the stakeholders to build capacity in the management of mental health and train many people to help the victims.
He challenged the university staff saying, it was the way to go through doing research, publishing and developing solutions for society.
Katunguka asked his staff to work on adding graduate courses on mental health, and the notable ones were masters in applied community development and masters in social work.
He also tasked them to pick a day of the week where there will be a compulsory physical exercise for all university staff and students since it is a remedy for mental health.