Inadequate Treatment Forces Mental illness Patients to Turn to Herbs

1348 Views Fort Portal, Uganda

In short
Dr. Henry Mbulwa, a Psychiatrist at Bundibugyo Hospital says mental health services remain dismal at health centers II and IIIs, which forces people to look for alternative treatment.

Families with mental health patients in Rwenzori region use both prescribed medicine and herbs due to inadequate treatment in health facilities, a survey by Fort Portal Referral Hospital has revealed.

The study that was conducted in the region last month shows that 62 percent of mental health patients use herbs.  According to the survey, the most common herbs used are leaves of two fencing trees Thevetia - Reprueii (Euphorbia Setani) or Thuja. 

The leaves are dried, pounded and mixed with water, which is administered to patients orally. This has raised concern among mental health experts in Rwenzori region. They argue that some of the herbs contain active chemicals, which could poison patients.

Dr. Henry Mbulwa, a Psychiatrist at Bundibugyo Hospital says mental health services remain dismal at health centers II and IIIs, which forces people to look for alternative treatment.  According to Mbulwa, all health centers ought to provide daily out-patient mental health services but this is only available in a few.
As a result, patients resort to herbs that are sold cheaply by herbalists. 

//Cue in: In dealing with them…''
Cue Out: …such a condition''.// 

Beatrice Komukama, a Psychiatric nurse in-charge of Karambi Health Center III says the unit lacks the required medicines such as diazepam, Vaiproic acid, Carbamazepine and hydantoins. Komukama says as a result, they are forced to refer patients to Fort Portal Referral Hospital or Butabika Mental Health Hospital for treatment. 

Steven Ajuna, a resident of Burungu village in Karambi Sub County says they use herbs to treat his mentally ill brother due to lack of medicine in the nearby health centers. He however says that for the six months his brother has been using herbs, there hasn't been any impact.  

Gerald Kabaseke, the in-charge Fort Portal Referral Hospital Mental Health Unit says last month 10 patients were admitted to the unit after using herbs.  He explains that although the traditional approach to mental illness gives patients psychological relief, there is no scientific evidence of its impact on patients.

He said the current drug allocation to the unit is insufficient, particularly for anticonvulsants and long acting anti-psychotic drugs.  Kabaseke says he has asked Ministry of Health to consider increasing the credit line drug supply for the Mental Health Unit. 

//Cue in: "we don't have drugs…
Cue out: "…we're waiting for help."//

According to Kabaseke, sometimes the community ignores mental health problems until they are very advanced when there are no drugs. He says the unit is sensitising communities to detect mental illness in its early stages. 

In July, officials from Butabika Hospital warned of an increase in mental illness. Dr. David Basangwa, the Executive Director Butabika Hospital attributed the rise to increased drug and alcohol abuse.


About the author

Emmanuel Kajubu
Emmanuel Kajubu is proud to have been the first Ugandan journalist to write in depth pieces about the Tooro Kingdom institution. His knowledge of the inner workings of the Tooro Kingdom is what made him privy to the splits in the royal family. These splits almost challenged Tooro Omukama Oyo Nyimba Iguru's reign.

Culture, agriculture and the environment are just two areas of many of interest to Kajubu. As long as he has held a pen, Kajubu has also written about public policy, health and crime.

Kajubu is keen on impacting his society not just as a writer but also a trainer and mentor. Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts fall under his docket. Kajubu has been a URN staff member since 2008.