Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | A collaborative research effort between Butabika Hospital and Makerere University has uncovered a significant gender disparity in the prevalence of severe anxiety and depression. The study revealed that more women are grappling with severe anxiety, while their male counterparts are predominantly affected by alcohol abuse.
The research involved the participation of 2,067 individuals from the districts of Kapchorwa, Adjumani, Bushenyi, and Butambala. Participants were drawn from various sources, including educational institutions, individuals seeking healthcare services at lower health facilities, and the general community.
The findings, which were disclosed on Tuesday 31, October, 2023 indicate that 39% of women reported experiencing severe anxiety, in contrast to 24% of men. In terms of depression, 12.6% of women reported suffering from it, compared to 5% of men.
The primary objective of this study was to assess the extent to which mental health services have been integrated into primary healthcare, communities, and schools within selected districts of the country.
Professor Fredrick Makumbi, a lecturer at the Makerere University School of Public Health and one of the researchers involved in the study, highlighted that, on average, one out of every three individuals exhibited severe anxiety. Additionally, when exploring people’s attitudes towards mental illness, a significant number of respondents believed that mental illness is linked to behavior.
Dr. Juliet Nakku, a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Butabika National Referral Mental Hospital who led the research team, emphasized the high prevalence of mental illness revealed by their results. She also highlighted the strong demand for medication, as nine out of every ten survey participants believed that medication could effectively address their mental health issues. However, only a few were actually receiving care, primarily due to obstacles such as long distances to healthcare facilities, inadequate resources, and medication shortages.
Furthermore, the study indicated that nearly four out of ten individuals perceived those with mental illness as being in danger. This perception stemmed from the fact that a significant number of people sought care from religious leaders or traditional healers before turning to hospitals for help. Approximately 9.3% of participants sought treatment from religious leaders, while another 5.3% consulted traditional healers.
To address these challenges, Nakku suggested the integration of mental health services into community programs to give it the attention it deserves, similar to other prevalent diseases like HIV. She also proposed the inclusion of social workers in the community to facilitate the connection of individuals in need of treatment interventions with appropriate care providers.