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Author Nathan Ssewaali addresses Mental Health in Children

Ugandan scholar and Children Mental Health activist Nathan

Mental health is the overall wellness of how you think, regulate your feelings, and behave. A mental illness, or mental health disorder, is defined as patterns or changes in thinking, feeling, or behaving that cause distress or disrupt a person’s ability to function.

Ugandan scholar and Children Mental Health activist Nathan Ssewali who is based in Canada addressed the issue of mental health problem in Uganda and how it is eating up the children causing death and self-harm

According to Nathan, Mental health disorders in children are generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviors, social skills, or regulation of emotions. These problems are distressing to children and disrupt their ability to function well at home, in school, or other social situations

“Most of the Ugandan population lives in rural areas and there are very few inpatient psychiatric units across the country with only one mental hospital thus, those living in much of the country have little access to mental healthcare.” He said

The bigger portion of the national mental health budget is directed to Butabika the only national mental hospital which was established in 1955, the hospital which is always overcrowded has only 500 beds, has approximately 430 staff and offers no separate facilities for children, and relies heavily on pharmacological treatment, which often results in heavy side-effects. Uganda’s children are becoming unhappier, anxious, depressed, and more likely to self-harm, suffer from an eating disorder, or have suicidal thoughts. The government should come out with a solution to tackle the problem before it is too late.” He added

The Author also revealed how COVID 19 affected a lot of children’s mental health worldwide and it is an issue the Ugandan Mental Health system never bothered to look at, statistically many children were delayed in learning to talk because of the masks people around them were wearing, according to researchers, children read lips while communicating to people around them and when they can’t see the lips, it was hard for them to comprehend a thing that greatly affected their talking abilities.

Behavioral Health Integration (BHI) is one approach that can improve access to mental health services for children and their families, partnerships between primary medical care practices and mental health care specialists can make mental health services more accessible for some families. A systematic review shows that children’s mental health care access that allows mental health care to be located in primary medical care and schools can help improve access.

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