Stigma Affecting Treatment of Mental Illness

2030 Views Fort Portal, Uganda

In short
Cases of mental illness in the Rwenzori region have been attributed to the high incidence of HIV and drug abuse.

Health workers in Kabarole district are concerned about the stigma directed at mental health patients, which keeps them away from hospital. The workers note that lack of treatment worsens cases of mental illness in communities until it is in the advanced stage. 

The mid-year report on the status of the mental health treatment in the Rwenzori region compiled by the mental health unit at Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital, notes that despite the availability of drugs, mental health patients fail to seek treatment at the facility for fear of being labeled. 

Ruth Mwesige, a psychiatrist at the Fort Portal Referral Hospital mental health unit says each month, they receive more than 10 patients with advanced mental illness. She explains that sometimes the community ignores mental health problems or patients deliberately don't want to seek treatment.  

Mwesige adds that the unit intends to start sensitizing communities to detect mental illness in its early stages. 

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Lawrence Isoke, a health worker at the unit, says that owing to stigma associated with mental illness, some families use herbs to treat the victims, which complicates the situation.
He adds that treating mental illness in the advanced stages is a burden on the mental health unit, since they have to provide specialized, which is costly.

Isoke however says that some of the mental health care workers have started providing effective counseling to families with members suffering from mental health ailments.

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Samuel Mugisha, a resident of Kijura whose sister suffers from a mental illness says that it becomes difficult to seek treatment because of abuses from members of the community. 
Mugisha explains that he is forced to treat her sister with herbs, adding that he wants patients with mental illness to be treated from their homes. 
Cases of mental illness in the Rwenzori region have been attributed to the high incidence of HIV and drug abuse. The main victims are youths who are the main users of drugs.

According to the World Health Organization-WHO, stigma surrounding mental ill health is widespread, despite the existence of effective treatment for mental disorders. 

The health body notes that stigma and discrimination can lead to abuse, rejection and isolation and can exclude people from health care or support.


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.