Agago District Struggles to Provide Mental Health Services

Godfrey Smart Okot, the Hospital Executive Director says that the hospital does not have a psychiatrist and trained personnel to attend to the mental health patients.
Pavel Reppo the Executive Director Fine Mind says that they are partnering with Agago district on mental handling mental health. Photo by Emmy Daniel Ojara

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Agago district is struggling to provide mental health services. This is due to the lack of psychiatrists and adequate funding.

The district receives all mental health services from the Catholic-owned Dr Ambrosoli Memorial Hospital Kalongo.  The hospital has consecutively for the past five financial years been receiving and attending to more than 600 patients seeking mental health services.   

These include new cases, relapses as well as transfers from Gulu Regional Referral Hospital (GRRH), Butabika Hospital in Kampala to the hospital which is deemed closer to the people.   

Godfrey Smart Okot, the Hospital Executive Director disclosed to URN during an interview that the hospital does not have a psychiatrist and trained personnel to attend to the mental health patients. 

//Cue in ‘’Agago district as…  

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He adds that they have also often run out of essential medicines for the mental health patients yet they do not receive any from the district or government. 

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Okot disclosed that the hospital does not charge any mental health patient for the services offered as they are solely drawing resources from their accounts.  

They have now turned to seek support from the development partners and well-wishers.

Samuel Ojok, the Agago district Health Assistant says the most mental health cases registered in the district include Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD), trauma, psychosis, epilepsy and suicide. 

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Jimmy Ocaka, a psychiatrist working for a private health facility in Kalongo Sub County attributes the mental illness cases to alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence, poverty, land wrangles, HIV and among others.

He disclosed that such conditions if unattended to or treated will lead to suicide.  

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John Otiki Jovine, a health worker at the ART Clinic in Kalongo Hospital says that the majority of the clients present with mental illness yet the facility has no psychiatrist to attend to them.   

He disclosed that recently a nine-year-old teenage girl who failed to receive counselling from the health facility committed suicide.  

Pavel Reppo, the Executive Director Finemind in partnership with the Rotary Club of Munyonyo in Kampala, says they have partnered with Agago district local government and trained 28 counsellors in handling mental health in the district.  

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An eighteen-year-old teenage girl in Kalongo Sub County who was recently abandoned by her mother disclosed to URN that she had opted for suicide until the intervention of a private counsellor since she had sought the service from government health facilities in vain.

Uganda has only 43 psychiatrists who are deployed in Mulago and Butabika National Referral Hospitals and four regional referral hospitals offering mental health services. 

Derrick Kiiza, the Executive Director of Mental Health Uganda says that the shortage of psychiatrists in mental health facilities in the country has greatly affected the provision of mental health services and denied several clients from accessing or getting adequate services.   

Kiiza says that out of the 43 psychiatrists, six are based in Butabika National Referral Hospital while the others are deployed only in Mulago National Referral Hospital and four Regional Referral Hospitals including Gulu, Arua, Kabale and Mbarara. 

Kiiza added that an assessment they conducted in government facilities offering mental health services discovered that there is a high level of violence, provocation, abuse, insults, and inhumane treatment of persons with mental problems due to the lack of experts deployed in such facilities.