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Alcohol, drug abuse leading cause of mental illness- Report

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Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Alcohol and drug abuse are the leading cause of mental ill health, a new report by TRAC FM has revealed. The study titled- ‘Disability Rights in Uganda-A Community Perspective’ was carried out by the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda-NUDIPU in collaboration with TRAC FM, -an NGO that organises public debates on policy and governance.

The study aimed at establishing what people think of PWDs through radio talk shows. The study, which looked at mental ill-health as one of the causes of disability in the country, shows that the misuse of alcohol and drugs in Teso, West Nile and Karamoja sub regions has led to high rates of mental ill-health.

The report shows that addiction to alcohol and drugs is the most common type of mental ill-health.  Findings from the study show that the most affected regions are Karamoja followed by West Nile and Teso at 63 percent, 61 percent and 60 percent respectively.

The Lead Researcher and country Director TRAC FM, Javie Ssozi says that the abuse of alcohol is something that can be traced back to cultural norms in different parts of the country. He says in some communities consumption of local brews is cheered and supported.

Currently, alcohol and drug abuse contribute to 40 percent of all admissions at Butabiika National Referral Mental Hospital. Dr. David Basangwa, the Executive Director Butabiika National Mental Referral Hospital attributes the high admission numbers to the ease with, which people access addictive substances.

He says weak legislation hasn’t helped reduce the numbers.

The report also shows that suicide caused by depression is on the increase. 41 percent of the respondents who took part in the study attributed the many cases of suicide in the community to depression.

Findings from the study show that Lango and Acholi sub region have the highest cases of depression and suicide. Cases of depression and suicide are attributed to 62 percent of all mental illnesses in Lango. In Acholi, they contributed to 50 percent.

In these regions, the consumption of local brew also known as ‘malwa’ is common with children as young as 10 years of age indulging in the brew.  Data from the Health Ministry shows that at least one out of every 10 Ugandans suffers from depression.

It is estimated that 9.9 per 100,000 deaths are due to suicide. Between 2016 and 2017, 2,500 people tried to commit suicide.  Dr. Basangwa says the findings from the report are not shocking because depression has become a global phenomenon.

“Depression is the second leading cause of mental ill-health globally and this is something that we are also seeing here in Uganda,” he said. Ssozi says despite such high numbers of drug abuse and depression, the two conditions are becoming more common due limited funding in the health sector.

He says that because few funds are going towards addressing them, the number of people suffering from them is likely to increase.

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