UGANDA – Matthias Mpuuga, the former Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LOP), has asked the government to integrate mental health issues into all sectors and activities in order to address the country’s increasing number of mental health cases.

Mpuuga, a parliamentary commissioner and MP for Masaka City’s Nyendo-Mukungwe Division, made the call on May 21 while officiating at the launch of a mental health awareness camp at Parliament in Kampala.

According to 2019 research by the Uganda Counselling Association and the Ministry of Health, 14 million Ugandans suffer from mental illnesses.

The research attributed this to the rising costs of living, pressures of modern life, and substance abuse.

Experts believe the numbers have doubled since then as a result of COVID-19 pandemic limitations, with stigma, poverty, and drug abuse identified as major causes of Uganda’s mental health issues.

In his remarks, Mpuuga emphasised that integrating mental health issues into all sectors and government operations might greatly lower the country’s growing number of mental health cases.

He urged that comparable efforts be extended to the private sector, as was done with HIV/AIDS.

“One of the biggest approaches that curtailed HIV/AIDS was mainstreaming it in all sectors and all activities. Now we can attest to a very serious reduction in the spread of HIV/AIDS. Is it hard to do the same for mental health in all we do?” Mpuuga pondered.

Mpuuga also called on the government to address the occasional mental health drug stockouts at Butabika National Referral Hospital.

Hon. Geoffrey Macho, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Forum on Mental Health, reiterated Mpuuga’s thoughts, stating that more funding are required to support Butabika Hospital, which lacks basic essentials such as proper patient accommodation.

 “In case any supplementary budget is tabled, the hospital should be considered, being the only national referral hospital handling mental health,” Macho added.

He highlighted that the hospital, designed for 400 patients, now accommodates more than 1200, leading to severe overcrowding.

Macho reiterated the need for Parliament to fast-track the Alcohol Control Bill, which he feared might face opposition from breweries.

Commenting on the Bill, the Assistant Commissioner for Mental Health at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Hafsa Lukwata, stressed the urgency for Parliament to process the Alcohol Control Bill, noting that substance abuse is the leading cause of mental health issues among the youth.

Dr. Byamah Mutamba, Deputy Director of Butabika Hospital, advocated for greater financing to allow the hospital to reach out to communities, arguing that such a policy would lower the number of patients at the already congested Butabika.

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