“I want to give more credibility to the concern of most Ugandans that mental health needs more funding and support and, especially for society, to stop the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses,” Mr Ajal said yesterday during the Uganda National Mental Health Conference 2022.

Mr Ajal listed some of the warning signs to look out for that can help one recognise that their loved one might need mental health help. “I observed while living with her that her anger management was none existent, she didn’t have any barriers when she got angry,” he said. He added: “Insomnia is also another sign, as well as an obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

Organized by the Uganda Counselors Association under the theme “make mental health for all a priority”, the conference aimed at creating awareness about mental health illness, reducing stigma and increasing allocation in the National Budget. The conference runs until tomorrow.

Dr Hasfa Lukwata, the assistant commissioner for mental health, alcohol and substance abuse at the Health Ministry, said only 0.7 per cent of the health care budget goes to mental health care.

She also said depression is a big mental health challenge, with 19.5 to 20 percent of the population suffering from some sort of depression.” Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze called for sensitisation and awareness about mental health.

“We need various lobbyists to get in touch with these politicians to make them aware of this problem. As politicians, we are not aware of the magnitude of this problem. Maybe we need to bring MPs to hear stories such as that of Mr Ajal to understand this so that when preparing the National Budget, mental health can be prioritized,” she said.

The executive director of Butabika National Referral Mental Hospital, Dr Juliet Nakku, referred to mental health as a “stepchild” of health care in Uganda because of the way it is neglected. She said Uganda has about 53 psychiatrists serving a population of about 44 million people, with an estimate of 14 million believed to be mentally unwell.

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