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Mental illness among youth in Lango attributed to alcoholism, drug abuse

Number of people committing suicide might increase with the increase in mental illness

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | More than 1,500 youth in Lango have suffered mental illness as a result of excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking marijuana.

Reports from Lira Psychiatric Department at the Regional Referral Hospital indicate that about 1,950 cases of mental illness among youth aged 19 to 36 years have been reported to the facility in six months.

Although the reported cases are partly attributed to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, hospital management says most of these cases were brought about as a result of excessive drinking of alcohol and marijuana.

Dr Bruno Atyang, the senior psychiatrist at Lira Regional Referral Hospital says that the mental illness was registered between March to September 2020.

He attributed these cases to the effect of alcoholism and drug abuse among the youth especially those who lost jobs during the pandemic.

“Excessive drinking of alcohol and marijuana among the young people has gone so high, some think that when they are stressful, the best way is to resort to drinking but the outcome is what we see today.”

However, Atyang says many patients who have sought their services through their outreaches in Alito, Otwal, Aboke and Aromo have recovered. He adds that about 300 of the victims with complicated cases were referred to Butabika Mental Referral Hospital.

Lira Psychiatric hospital department that started in December 2008 serves the nine districts in the Lango sub-region and other parts of the Teso and Acholi regions but health workers say many prefer traditionalists that they believe have answers towards mental illness.

George Akaca, a Public Health specialist and a psychologist is concerned that the number of people committing suicide might increase with the increase in other mental illnesses such as depression, drug and alcohol addiction.

He cited the World Health Organization finding that suicide was the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 years, after road injury in 2018 globally. According to Akaca, the picture could be the same especially that all the recent cases of suicide that were popular on social media were of the youth.

“Some people still treat mental with a lot of stereotype and ignorance with many running to traditional shrines and religious entities, they think it’s witchcraft than a medical condition that needs professional intervention,” he said.

Globally, Uganda ranks 68th in the world on the suicide watch list.  However, some experts say Uganda could be ranking higher for a lot of people who die are never recorded because they are often secluded for fear of traditional beliefs around the issue.



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