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Patients Seeking Mental Health Services Drop as Deaths by Suicide Rise

Freddy Odong, a Psychiatric Nurse and the Project Manager of Suicide Prevention at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, says the number of persons seeking mental health services has dropped from between 60 to 80 each day to just 9 patients currently.
Odong explaining the mental health condition in Acholi Sub Region on Thursday evening at Northern Uganda Media Club

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The number of mentally ill persons seeking mental health services at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital has drastically reduced amidst the rising number of deaths by suicide in Acholi Sub Region.   

Freddy Odong, a Psychiatric Nurse and the Project Manager of Suicide Prevention at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, says the number of persons seeking mental health services has dropped from between 60 to 80 each day to just 9 patients currently.   

//’Cue in: “We used to……   

Cue out:…..nine deaths in ten days,”//  

He says so many people have abandoned treatment and there is too much reoccurrence of mental illness contributing to the higher number of deaths in the region.  

Odongo explained that communities have continued discriminating people with mental illness, which accounts for relapses and higher incidents of suicide in the region.  

Lucy Amony, a mother of six children from Kirombe Ward in Gulu West Division, says her daughter has battled mental illness for the last twenty-five years amidst stigma and discrimination from the community.  

She says her husband abandoned her with the children and married another woman after the family spent more than Shillings 8 million on treating her daughter. 


“The drugs are very expensive and yet we are advised from the hospital to get them from pharmacies. I can’t afford now after my small scale business collapsed with Covid19,” Amony told Uganda Radio Network.

She has appealed to the government to prioritize support for people with mental health problems through the provision of sufficient drugs in the hospital to save them the burden of treatment.

John Paul Nyeko, the Chairperson Mental Health Uganda for Northern Uganda revealed that over 1,500 patients with mental illnesses are currently on treatment at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital.

He, however, said stigma and discriminations against people with mental illnesses remain the major hindrances to breaking the cycle of mental health insurgency in the North.

“You may recall that none of the families of people with mentally ill persons in Gulu received food relief from government during the lockdown and the exclusions have continued,” Nyeko said.

However, in an early interview, Sister Immaculate Akello, the in charge Mental Health Unit at Gulu Regional Referral called for more awareness creation.

“Mental illness is beyond one’s choices and that calls for care of the patients at home to enhance treatment,” Sister Akello said.