By Nakanwagi Olivier Mukaaya
People living with HIV are at a higher risk of mental illnesses, according to Dr. Denis Kutoosi.
Speaking to this reporter in an exclusive interview yesterday 22nd October 2020, Dr. Kutoosi revealed that HIV positive persons especially men easily go into depression.
Dr. Kutoosi, a Medical Officer at Bombo Military Hospital says that men living with HIV are more affected with mental illnesses because of many factors which include stigma, lack of money, poor upbringing and conflicts at home.
He adds that mental health includes emotional, psychological and social well-being of an individual.
“Mental illness involves changes in the brain structure or chemistry that leads to a different perception of reality, abnormal thoughts, emotional disturbances, and unusual behaviors,” he said.
He further added that many factors contribute to mental health problems, including; biological factors, such as brain chemistry, drug abuse as well as family history of mental health problems.
“Some of the symptoms of mental illness include; avoiding people and usual activities, low or no energy, or having excessive non-constructive energy, unexplained aches and pains, feeling helpless or hopeless, smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual and feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upsets, being worried or scared.” He added.
Kutoosi however says with creative approaches to advocacy and awareness, stigma against mental disorders can be restricted thus enabling persons with mental illness to live dignified lives, free from discrimination and be acceptable in the community.
Frank Olong, a mental health activist says that, the number of people that suffer from mental problems in the whole country totals 11.5 million.
Uganda has only 33 psychiatrists.
He also says that persons with mental disorders suffer many setbacks with the most common being discrimination due to stigma.
Okolong added that the negative attitude towards persons with mental health problems has greatly crippled efforts to obtain medical and psychiatric support, especially at the early stages of the condition.
“Stigma against mental illness is observable at various levels ranging from individual to institutional. This has interfered with recovery and hampered the fight against achieving monumental results in the mental health field,” he said.
He further says that some of the approaches that can be used to reduce stigma against mental illness and create awareness include walks, marathons, soccer tournaments, dance, music and drama. These activities have an impact on community members as they are simple but carry a strong and important message that is tailored towards meeting the needs of every member of the community.