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Mental illness is one of the leading causes of suicide in Acholi sub region. The high stress levels ushered in by the Covid-19 pandemic have exacerbated the problem in this post-conflict region.
Mr J.J Paul Nyeko, the Project Team Leader Mental Health Uganda says the pandemic has affected livelihoods and many households are facing acute financial stress due to job losses and the collapse of businesses.
Mr Nyeko notes that the current financial stress being experienced in households has made the situation dire. “There was already a challenge even before Covid-19 and it has become worse with the pandemic,” he said while appearing on one of our radio talk shows on Mega FM as an invited panelist discussing mental health.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 78% of global suicides occur in low and medium income countries and it is common among 15-29 year-olds. Unfortunately, in Uganda, just like in several other countries, there is no readily available data on suicide and suicide attempts largely due to the sensitivity of the matter and cultural factors including stigma.
The Uganda National Household Survey 2019/20 shows that Northern Uganda has the highest rate of poverty in the country standing at 67.7%. This is corroborated by a report by the Global Psychology Alliance which shows that in countries like Uganda where disease, ignorance and poverty are common; there are also widespread cases of elevated stress levels, depression, and anxiety, all of which are contributing factors to suicide attempts.
In addition, these findings show that Uganda is among the top six countries in Africa with high rates of depressive disorders at 4.6% and anxiety disorders at 2.9%.
With the pandemic causing untold levels of suffering, there is bound to be more cases of mental illnesses and their associated problems and this calls for more investment in safeguarding the mental health of citizens. The government of Uganda has made attempts to address the challenges occasioned by mental health in Acholi region through the recent launch of the Civil society engagement in mental health awareness & suicide prevention project manned by Mental Health Uganda, African Centre for Treatment & Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) & Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). As SPACE, we carry on activities using different online engagements such as radio talk shows in the Northern region to curb the effects on mental health among citizens.