KAMPALA. As the country joins the rest of the world today to commemorate this year’s World Health Day, which focuses on depression, a mood disorder characterised by serious despondency and dejection, the Ministry of Health said war and hunger stricken areas are prone to the condition.
Depression is a leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, and affects people of all ages from all walk walks of life, in every country.
Although Uganda does not have statistics on the number of people living with depression, the World Health Organisation says more than 300 million people are now living with depression — the main cause of ill health and disability across the globe.
The World Health Day, a global health awareness day celebrated every year on April 7. This year, the theme of the day according to Ministry of Health statement released yesterday is Depression: Let’s Talk.
Dr Hafsa Lukwata, the acting in-charge for mental health section at Ministry of Health, however, said at the moment the country lacks funds to carry out a national or even regional survey to find out the actual numbers to enforce evidence based policies.
“For now, Uganda [does not have any new survey] to give a clear picture of the burden. The only data we have is that of the Mental Health Group project report of 2014 which shows that every three to four people in the war torn Northern Uganda have depression,” Dr Lukwata said.
Dr Lukwata added that: “People in areas that have had outrageous events in northern Uganda [particularly in Acholi sub region], those displaced in Buduuda District and other hunger stricken areas have been found to be prone to depression.”
The northern part of the country, mainly the districts of Agago, Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, Nwoya, Lamwo, and Pader, which were ravaged by war characterised by all kinds of sexual harassment, broad day murder and hunger for more than 20 years.
Recently, most rural parts of the country, especially in Teso and Karamoja sub-regions were hit by hunger which led to the death of some people.
Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the primary healthcare state minister, told journalists at a press conference yesterday that government has embarked on training village health teams (VHTs) to help in identifying people with depressive symptoms in the communities. “The Ministry of Health has trained primary health care workers to recognise and treat depression. We have also sensitised VHTs in some regions about depression including identification, referral and follow up after discharge from a health facility,” Dr Moriku said.
First line treatment medicines for depression in Uganda are accessible at all government health centres while general and regional hospitals provide more highly skilled professional treatment and other psychosocial interventions .
Depression is a common mental disorder that presents with persistent low mood (sadness) or loss of interest in pleasurable activities. At the extreme, recurrent thoughts about death and acts of self harm or suicide are common. The condition commonly follows difficult life events such as bereavement or job loss, but can also develop out of the blue with no clear precipitating events.