“Reiterating the Relevance of Mental Health DISCOURSE in Uganda and Sierra Leone”

“Mental illness is gradually becoming another Corruption or Governance Crisis in Africa”.

Understanding the adverse effect of mental illness is not a day DISCUSS, it has a lot to do with creating sustainable solutions that are applicable to a given country. Over the past two decades, the talk around mental illness has received a less pragmatic action both from the political and economic construct of society.  It is no longer news that the effects of mental illness do not need a day of observation in Africa.  According to the (WHO,2020)Mental illness can happen to anyone, at any time if the right regulations are not met.   The United Nations 2017 Report gave better context on how mental illness is gradually becoming a norm in Africa. In the view of the author (Gberie,2017), it will be difficult to stage a remedy if the root cause is not well handled.   Since 2017 ¼ of Kenya’s population (44 Million Kenyans) are suffering from Schizophrenia, and other psychotic, bipolar, depression, and severe anxiety disorders.  What this means is that the mental health picture should send a clarion call to key stakeholders who seek the best interest of the Kenyan populace.  While 300 Million (4.4%) suffer from depression, it is important to know that 76-84% of people in the global south are not receiving any form of treatment regarding mental health( WHO,2020). Mental health could be another corruption or governance crisis in Africa if the right questions are not asked.  It is relevant to ask the right questions, because by getting the right information, one can be able to provide the right answers.  In the view of the (UN,2017 Report), almost all major cities in Africa suffer from the dangers of mental illness. It is not about how giant the economy might be, nor about how smart the citizens could be, the obvious truth is that mental illness is pretty much taking over Africa’s economy.  As recently as 2019, it was reported that less than 10% of Nigerians who suffer do not have access to trained and qualified Psychists. Considerably there are 130 Psychiatrists for a country of 174 – 180 Million Population. In 2018, Ghana passed a mental health act (ACT846).  The main notion in the Ghanaian parliament was the access to facilities around the capital as well as regional districts where the numbers are higher.

This is no exception for Sierra Leone, as there have been over 450.000 people out of a population of 7 million battling the daily hazards of mental illness of the past two decades.

“Mental Illness has a home in SIERRA LEONE.”

It is difficult to talk about mental illness without mentioning all the leading facts that either project or reject its prevalence.  Sierra Leone from 1991 to the year 2002 experienced a civil war.  As much as the times are evolving, that Civil war left many dark memory blisters in the lives of Sierra Leones. Arguably, mental illness is not just about the physical outcomes, but it also entails the mind’s things. Sierra Leone since 1991 till date is recovering from tragic events. Civil war, Ebola epidemic in 2014, flooding in 2016, a mudslide in 2017 and the currently the COVID global pandemic. All these sudden happenings have left many Sierra Leoneans in complete shock. Lives and properties have been lost all though these past two decades.  In the sub-Saharan area, Sierra Leone is said to occupy the lowest positions in the Human Development Index drawn up in the year 2002 to 2010. 

The country is ranked 128th among 135 countries for which a Human Poverty Index was calculated. As it stands the proportion of its population proves below the poverty line of US$1.25 per day is at 47.7%. 

Creating a lasting solution to mental illness does not only come with having meetings in the board rooms. Instead, it has a lot to do with how political leaders hold themselves into account of providing its citizens’ fundamental needs.  Political conflict is also another primary reason for the skyrocketing of the numbers in Sierra Leone. 

According to the African Young Voice News Media ( AYV), There is only one major hospital for treating mental hospitals in the entire country. With over 7 million people. The only center of cure is the Kissy Nation Referral Psychiatric Home. The locals also know this place as KISSY MENTAL HOME. The World Bank report also alludes that mental health has not been treated with the priority it demands in Sierra Leone because there are not even five mental health experts in Sierra Leone. The report shows that there could be over 140 patients a day admitted in at the (KMH) to be treated by the only mental health expert in the entire country (DR. Nahim). Having a twist about how this could impact the economy, it is essential to note that the people drive the economy. The healthier the people, the wealthier the economy. The (UN.2020) Mental health index shows that 5 out of 7 Sierra Leones are thinning or worried (Food, Clothing, or Shelter).

“There is a Uganda that requires Mental health attention”

Although the country has faced numerous challenges with corruption, poverty and political instability, Uganda is known as a hub in the East African region (Ruiz, Calabrese,2017). With over 38.8 million population, the topic of mental illness has either reminded a taboo in certain cultures or has not been given the utmost priority it deserves. To better understand this, the World Bank 2020 report explains how the whole of the east African region is occupied with other political and social constructs forgetting the social and economic impact of mental health. According to (Molodynski, Cusack, Nixon,2017) 90% mentally ill people in Uganda are not sure of receiving treatment. While the government has accomplished a detailed poverty reduction plan from 33.8% in 1998 to 15.5% in 2012, the state of mental illness remains an unsolved puzzle. In Uganda, it is no longer new that the government spends 9.8% gross domestic product (US$146 annual per person ) yet less than 1% of this goes to menta; health  (Nixton,2017).  Compared to other East African countries who spend at least 7%, discussing mental health is crucial to Ugandans and the next generation of leaders.

Across schools and universities in the country, mental health has also been a significant challenge. With over 3,000 schools, almost no school teaches mental as a subject matter. This means that youths are sometimes not aware of mental health dialogues until they have grown unto maturity. Another challenge is the fact that political and traditional leaders are shying from topics that are mental health-related. In the eyes of many Ugandans talking about mental health only means the person in question is crazy. Part of undeserving this peg begs the question of what can be done in Uganda?



“This is the solution that cannot be ignored”

Part of providing a sustainable entrepreneurial solution is to first understand what works in Sierra Leone and Uganda.  Since 2010, there are non-governmental organizations helping in the fight of mental illness in Sierra Leone.   A first-hand approach should start from the political heads. The government should set up a mental health coalition that will be able to regulate the out of mental health across all works of life. What this means is that the DISCUSS of the mind will become a nation agenda.  Canceling homes should be built across all mainstream learning institutions. by doing so, it put the country in the position of hiring or training more mental health practitioners. 

The creation of these health centers will boost the job market, and will create a formidable system. Under the same proposition of a mental health coalition, the government should ensure that the awareness of mental health should be a subject of learning added in the school curriculum of high schools as well as other higher learning institutions.  The goal is to help build the consciousness of mental health amongst Sierra Leoneans.

(Kigozi,2020) supports a study done in 2005 that clearly explains the role of political stakeholders in reiterating the relevance of mental health discussion in Uganda. While discussing the various ethnicities of Uganda, the study recommended that the government use local leaders as frontline massagers regarding mental illness discussion. All topics around the need to be aware of individual mental states will come from the people themselves.

There is no way to change the narrative of mental health awareness in Uganda if the right funds are not accorded to that line of work. (Nixton,2017) made mention of the management of the “Butabika National Mental Home in Uganda”. Since 2012, there are only 500 beds that cater to over 4,000 mentally ill patients; the hospital only has 43o workers with only three trained and qualified psychiatrist specialists. The bottom line is that the government should ensure that adequate funding is allocated to the Mental Health taskforce. Suppose the discussion of mental illness is taking severe form the political wing of Uganda. In that case, it will be only a matter of time for people to embrace the significance of mental health awareness.

Another relevant approach that the mental health coalition could implement its regulations against stereotypes and stigmatization. In Sierra Leone, it is becoming a norm that the word mental health has its fourth view in Sierra Leoneans’ eyes. In this same vein, mental health discussion should be approached according to the respective victims’ demographics. The Standard-Times new media in 2018 reported that children are more likely to open up to their peers if they are undergoing, Abuse, Corporal punishment, and harassment at home. If this is then the case, the Mental health coalition should ensure that students should be the action point persons even in high schools.  When It comes to domestic violence and gender-based violence, the government should pass formidable laws that will secure women and children’s rights. Even if these laws are in existence, there should be a strict measure of its application amongst all citizens. Part of creating a sustainable solution to this is by including the men in the conversation. Finally, peace and reconciliation should be part of the drive of the mental health coalition. Like Rwanda and the Democratic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Uganda like other African countries have experienced civil war wounds, thus having a conversation around peace and reconciliation will give a brighter future perspective.

Mental illness can be the new terror in Africa if it is not handled at this inception. With mental health coalitions set up both Countries the government will be able push the fight of mental health awareness in Uganda Sierra Leone  


Gberie, L. (2017). Mental illness: Invisible but devastating. Retrieved 11 December 2020, from https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2016-march-2017/mental-illness-invisible-devastating

Calabrese, & Ruiz. (2017). Would more trade facilitation lead to lower transport costs in the East African Community?. Retrieved 11 December 2020, from https://www.odi.org/publications/10817-would-more-trade-facilitation-lead-lower-transport-costs-east-african-community

Mental illness: Invisible but devastating. (2017). Retrieved 11 December 2020, from https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2016-march-2017/mental-illness-invisible-devastating

Molodynski, A., & Nixon, J. (2017). Mental healthcare in Uganda: desperate challenges but real opportunities. Retrieved 11 December 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5663025/

Health product and policy standards. (2020). Retrieved 11 December 2020, from https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/about

Mental health. (2020). Retrieved 11 December 2020, from https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/mental-health

AYV Newspaper News -Sierra Leone News, AYV Sierra Leone, Wake Up Sierra Leone, AYV News, Sierra Leone News, Leone News | Sierra Leone News, AYV Sierra Leone, Wake Up Sierra Leone, AYV News, Sierra Leone News, Leone News. (2020). Retrieved 11 December 2020, from http://www.ayvnewspaper.com/