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Youths in Northern Uganda turn to sports to raise awareness of mental health

Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Health activists and youths in Northern Uganda are turning to football to create awareness of mental health problems.

The idea stems from the reported increase in mental health cases among the youth in Northern Uganda and several districts of the Acholi sub-region.

Led by Children Care Uganda (CCU), nineteen youth football clubs from across the Acholi sub-region will take part in a 20-day football tournament at the fourth division army barracks playground in Gulu city, under the theme; Make Mental Health a National Priority.

They say that mental health problems have resulted in high crime rates, suicide, drug abuse, and domestic disputes among others yet it is under-facilitated by the government.

Matthew Ocan, the research officer at Children Care Uganda says besides creating awareness on the prevention of mental problems, they will also sensitize members of the community on handling mental health clients.

He added that the tournament would also provide free counseling and psychosocial support to members of the public on how mental problems can be prevented at all levels.

Ocan says that their findings discovered that at least 50 of their 250 beneficiaries who are young people aged between 14 and 24 years present with depression, anxiety, and stress.

He noted that this is a youth-led initiative to appeal for increased support for the country’s mental health services.

Betty Acan, the Program Officer at Children Care Uganda noted that the initiative will support youth and train them to become activists in preventing mental health problems.

Clinicians at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital have blamed the increasing mental problems among young people in the Acholi sub-region on gambling and drug abuse.

Vincent Ojok, the Youth Chairperson of Lamogi sub county in Amuru district says that the initiative will go a long way in supporting the youth to live healthy lifestyles.

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