Addressing the Issues of Mental Health Awareness among Uganda’s Youthful Population

In Uganda, there is no national coverage of community mental healthcare. A network of 28 out-patient facilities can provide follow-up care, but they are thinly spread and often starved of funds for even essential medication. The majority of national mental health funding is invested in the national mental health hospital at Butabika. It was established in 1955 and has 500 beds, although there is frequently overcrowding. Its annual budget is US$2.25 million and it has approximately 430 staff (Emerald Project, 2016). There are no data regarding average length of stay or diagnostic mix.

With all this in sight, we have developed a number of campaigns aimed at supporting the current systems combating mental health problems with emphasis to depression that has become a menace eating out on the current youthful population.

Since we started our campaigns, we have reached over 8000 young people in a bid to achieve Mental Health for all.

Our efforts are not in vain, we believe in the efforts of our various partners and our versatile team to achieve sustainable mental health for all young people in Uganda, regardless of financial status, tribe or religion.

In October 2019, we embarked on a mental health discussion at Hana International School. In this project dubbed ‘Mental Health in a dynamic World,’ we partnered with Active Youth Africa, an organisation with a goal to educate the importance of mental health, and Awesome Mind Speaks, an organization focusing on people’s mental health and emotional well being.

Through our discussions at Hana International School, we managed to reach out to about 200 High school students emphasising the importance of mental health thus burning down a number of stereotypes.

In the same year, we run a campaign on depression dubbed ‘Depression is a silent Killer among the Youth’ under the tag line ‘Be My Keeper, Be my hero’. This was a rather more visual campaign that mainly ran online where people were required to engage in the conversation on depression.

At the core of the campaign is the importance of talking about depression as a vital component of recovery. The stigma surrounding mental illness, including depression, remains a barrier to people seeking help throughout the country. Talking about depression, whether with a family member, friend or medical professional; in larger groups, for example in schools, the workplace and social settings; or in the public domain, in the news media, blogs or social media, helps break down this stigma, ultimately leading to more people seeking help.

In 2020, we stepped it up a little. In light of the Corona virus pandemic that has left the whole world stricken and on tenterhooks, Uganda went under a mandatory lockdown where people were asked /required to stay home. The total lock down took at least 52 days. We came up with ‘the lockdown challenge’ in a bid to keep people active during the lockdown thus combating mental health. The campaign required young people to share a video of how they utilise their time during lockdown. We are glad to announce that our first winner was Victoria Nakimbowa, this campaign managed to reach over 500,000 people on social media through the hashtag #stayconnectedcya.

Well as we and our partners try to change the status quo, we also have put in mind that we are still light years away from combating the source code of poor mental health, but we shall not rest. We shall fight till we win this fight.