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Experts blame increasing drug addiction to break down in social fabric

Drug addiction

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | As Uganda prepares to mark World Mental Health day on October 10th, experts are calling for parents to be more involved in their children’s growth even with increased pressure by parents to chase career and earning a living.

Dr. Merdard Bitekyerezo, the board chairman of the National Drug Authority (NDA) says that the biggest number of youths seeking interventions for addiction today are children of the affluent.

Speaking to Uganda Radio Network in an interview on Wednesday morning, Pat Robert Larubi, a communications’ Officer for local the NGO that brings together people who have battled mental illnesses – Mental Health Uganda agreed with Bitekyerezo saying that many addicts that come in for counseling report to have resorted to drugs because of lack of attention and loneliness.

He said many of them report to have used drugs for long before their relatives could establish it.

A 2017 study carried out by a group of psychiatrists at Makerere University in secondary schools found that 60 to 70% of the students had used a type of illicit drug or alcohol of which 39% acknowledged to be using a form of drug regularly.

Also, at Butabika hospital where most of the drug addicts are referred, the alcohol and drug unit has had to be expanded because of increasing numbers of people being admitted.

When this was put to Janet Kantarama, the Executive Director Safe Places Uganda mental health treatment center, she said the number of those that come out to speak out or seek care for their addiction or mental illness is very small since the issue is still riddled with lots of stigma and ignorance.

Kantarama who is also a psychologist said as cases of all mental health issues from depression to addiction to being suicidal are on the increase, there is need to start thinking about the kind of psychological first aid that is given to people and innovative ways through which people in distress can be supported.

She recommends planning and cultivating a support system that you run to when battling a challenge.

On Thursday, October 10th is marked across the globe as World Mental Health Day where awareness about mental health issues is made.

Here in Uganda, people who have battled mental illness will hold a candle light event with an aim of putting across a message of hope and encouraging those with challenges to speak up.

Mental illness is ranked the 13th leading cause of death globally by the World Health Organization.

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