Govt up in arms as depression eats up Uganda’s working class

Ministers Dr. Ruth Aceng and Dr. Joyce Mokiru at a function in Omoro district. Dr. Mokuru has decried the high prevalence of depression – a mood disorder – eating up Uganda’s working class (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – Government has appealed to employers and other stakeholders such as non-government organisations to take interest in depression and its serious outcomes such as suicide and homicide.

The minister for Primary Healthcare, Dr Joyce Moriku, says depression, a mood disorder characterised by serious despondency and dejection, is on the rise in different sectors of society and must be dealt with through early treatment, social support and referral for appropriate treatment.

“……depression is an illness that is treatable but at the same time is preventable. It can affect any one of us at any time so it is time to educate ourselves about depression and support those who are suffering from this problem,” says Dr Moriku.

A February 2017 World Health Organisation report says depression is the largest single mental health problem and a major contributor to suicide deaths whose number is close to 800,000 per year.

Of the 50 African countries WHO ranked, Uganda was among the top six countries with the highest number of people suffering from depressive disorders.

The report says 1.7 million or (4.6 per cent) Ugandans suffer from depressive disorders and 1.07 0r (2.8 per cent) Ugandans suffer from anxiety disorders.

The Mental Health Group project report of 2014 indicates that depression is highest in northern Uganda. Made up of more than 30 districts with a total population of over six million people, at least three out of 10 people in the region have major depression according to report.

“The prevalence of major depressive disorder was 24.7 percent. The distribution by gender was 29.2 among and 17 percent among males,” Another study called the Wayo Nero study conducted in 2014 shows.

According to the study, the war trauma events previously experienced are thought to be the major risky factors responsible for the disorder.

Dr David Basangwa, the executive director of Butabiika hospital, however, says mental illness cases could be reduced if Ugandans stopped “reckless’’ alcohol consumption, drug abuse and going on sex rampage.

“Sex rampage leads to increased spread of HIV/Aids, which also affects the brain leading to mental illness. Majority of mental illness cases are related to HIV/Aids and immunisable diseases,” says Dr Moriku.

Dr Moriku says government has embarked on training village health teams(VHTs) to help in identifying people with depressive symptoms in the communities.

“The Ministry of Health has trained primary health care workers to recognise and treat depression. We have also sensitised VHTs in some regions about depression, including identification, referral and follow up after discharge from a health facility,” Dr Moriku says.

In Uganda, first line treatment medicines for depression are accessible at all levels of care and this medicine is very efficacious. General and Regional Hospitals provide more highly skilled professional treatment and other psychosocial interventions

Depression is a common mental disorder that presents with persistent low mood (sadness) or loss of interest in pleasurable activities. At the extreme, recurrent thoughts about death and acts of self-harm or suicide are common.

Depression affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries and imparts on general mental wellbeing. It affects people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, damage relationships with family and friends and at worst, depression can lead to suicide.

Depression commonly follows difficult life events such as bereavement or job loss, but can also develop out of the blue with no clear precipitating events.

According to WHO 350 million people worldwide are affected by depression. It is also estimated that 3 to 4 persons out of every 10 persons in the community suffer a depressive illness. Intervention



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