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Mental health a challenge in post-conflict areas

Displaced boys from South Sudan cooking food in a refugee camp in northern Uganda

Government is set to present the mental health bill to parliament, state minister for primary health Care, Sarah Opendi, has said.

She said this bill, once passed into law, will guide planning and provision of health care services to mental health patients across the country. She said currently there are few mental health workers and services, noting majority of mental health patients in villages do not access services.

Opendi was speaking at the annual Mental Health Beyond Facilities conference last week. It is a project implemented by Makerere University’s college of health sciences.

She said government has presented mental health to be included in the Sustainable Development Goals by the UN, which will replace Millennium Development Goals come end of this year.

Dr Sheila Ndyanabangi, the principal investigator in the mental health division at the ministry of health, said government has put up good structures for mental health services but what is missing is access at primary health centres and community centres.

Presenting findings of the project progress, Dr Bradon Kohort from Nepal, a psychiatrist, said reducing stigma should be strengthened in management of mental health illnesses. Brian Mutamba, a researcher with Makerere University college of health sciences, urged government to address mental health impact on prolonged-conflict areas.

He said nodding disease remains a significant health challenge to families in post-conflict northern Uganda. Associated stigma and the chronic nature of the disease is reportedly making caregivers of the affected children suffer from a variety of mental health problems.

Meanwhile, Julius Muron, a researcher from Liberia, suggested use of mobile mental health clinics to increase access of services in rural areas, especially post-conflict ones. In many parts of the country, mental health services remain inaccessible and patients with ‘minor’ mental disorders are left untreated.

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