World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively for their own communities. It can also be the cognitive, behavioral and emotional well-being of an individual. Mental health is one of the major emerging global health concerns and yet it has been given limited attention. It’s one of the issues accounting for the different societal problems such as gender-based violence, traffic accidents, student deaths and poor school performance.
In Uganda, much as there is dominance in the health burden with the communicable disease which accounts for 50% of overall disease burdens, World Health Organization in 2018 reported a growing burden of non-communicable diseases including mental health disorders in developing countries like Uganda.
Mental health disorders are mainly linked to high levels of substance abuse, depression, anxiety levels, and elevated stress. And with the outbreak of COVID-19, the mental health burden has increased accounting for the rising death especially among University students. Many students have quit schools, committed suicides, and also run mad mainly with issues related to mental health. With emphasis to universities, many universities in Uganda have at least reported deaths of their students by suicide with the cause relating to mental health issues.
Most of the students have suffered from mental health problems because they get into issues that are beyond their control and lack of people to communicate with so as to reduce the pressure and depression they hold. The victims end up living lonely, hence making a non-informed decision.
Utilizing the online platforms
With the current covid-19 in Uganda, face-to-face talks and mass counseling is not encouraged. Online platforms become reliable options with Uganda having almost half of its population having access to at least Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Instagram and other online avenues where mental health talks can be promoted during the covid-19 pandemic.
Online platforms have currently provided the best platform for marketing. The same platform can also be used to fight and reduce mental health issues among university students. This can be implemented by counselors creating online pages where victims of depression, anxiety, and other social problems come and share ideas where they can get feedback from respective counselors. Platforms can be designed to ensure the confidentiality and privacy of the students’ information. This will enable stressed students to freely share their conditions with their online counselors who will give instant feedback.
Hence, considering partnerships with the different stakeholders like the Ministry of Health, internet providers, and the students, we together could reduce the mental health burden among students and hence promote sustainable education in Uganda.
The Authors are; Mr. WEJULI JUNIOR MIKE and Mr. IVAN ONGEBO, Bsc. Environmental Health Scientists at Makerere University School of Public Health.