In the aftermath of the COVID-19, health experts in Acholi Sub-region are registering rising cases of mental illnesses associated with depression.
According to the experts, the cases are being registered both among females and males, unlike previously when the bulk of the cases was dominant among males.
Data from the hospital shows that 400 patients visit the outpatient department at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital Mental Health Unit weekly seeking mental health services majority of them suffering from depression.
Alfred Droti, a Senior Psychiatric Clinical Officer at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital says the mental health unit has registered a sharp rise in the number of patients visiting the facility for mental health support recently.
Droti attributes a correlation in the numbers of both men and females suffering from depression to a number of factors among with the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the economy on top of the list.
He says because the majority of family heads are men, they are affected the most due to high cost of living, which has rendered some unable to fend for their families leading to Gender-based violence (GBV) at home.
Droti says, unlike women who open up and report cases of GBV, men tend to keep silent adding that the accumulation of the burden leads to depression which in the long run can cause mental illness. He confirmed that the biggest burden of mental illness is seen among youth engaged in alcohol and drug abuse and warned that if the vice is unchecked, cases of mental illness will soar in the near future.
According to records, between three to four patients are admitted for treatment with a severe form of mental illness at the facility weekly.
Freddy Odong, a Psychologist at the Mental Health Unit says the trend in cases of mental illness is beginning to shift from men towards women who are showing up at the health facility with forms of depression. At least 13 women according to Odong are currently admitted to the Mental Health Unit with severe depression.
He notes that whereas the cases of mental health challenges are treatable, late referrals of patients by some family members who seek treatment from traditional healers and religious leaders pose threats to their recoveries.
Odong however says there is a need for one to understand themselves in terms of their weakness, strengths, and what they are capable of achieving to avoid the depression that leads to a mental health meltdown.
Cases of suicides resulting from mental illness in the region remain high, many years after the guns fell silent following the two-decade Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency. For instance, between August and September, medics say six people between the ages of 10 to 20 years committed suicide in Nwoya, Pader, Agago, and Gulu Districts as a result of depression and anxiety.
It is against this background that the Mental Health Unit at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital this year has organized the Gulu Mental Health Run scheduled for November 19 in Gulu City.
The marathon under the theme “Making Mental Health a National Priority” seeks to create mental health awareness, minimize stigma and commemorate World Mental Health Day. Since January 2022, the Gulu Regional Referral Hospital Mental Health Unit has registered 54 percent admission of males between the age of 20 to 50 years and 46 percent of females between 18-45 years suffering from mental illness.
In 2021, the facility registered 8,000 outpatients and 450 inpatient admissions with severe forms of mental illness with mood disorder leading followed by substance abuse.