As the country gears up for the forthcoming annual World Mental Health Day celebrations that are set for next week, an official in the Ministry of Health (MOH) yesterday disclosed that access to mental health care services in the country has increased.
According to Dr. Achor AIT Mohand, a psychiatrist who offers support to National programme on mental health, there were few services for mental health care right after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and a few people accessed them.
“Today, mental health care has been decentralized to the community level and people have been able to access these services at health centres and district hospitals respectively.
“Based on Rwanda’s history, so many people are still facing post traumatic stress disorder and need such care. Through a national policy on mental health, availability of these services has increased and the country now leads the region in mental health care provision,” Mohand said.
With reference to statististcs from the ministry, mental health consultations increased from 3000 in the year 2000 to 16,000 in 2007.
The expert attributes this increase mainly to health insurance, decentralization of the services countrywide and collaboration with various organizations like AVEGA – an organisation of widows of the 1994 Genocide.
A consultant only identified as Munyandamutsa recently carried out a study on post traumatic stress disorder and according to findings, 28.54 percent of the 1,000 people sampled were confirmed to have mental problems.
Officials said that this shows that about 2.7 million Rwandans have these problems. Other related problems raised include epilepsy which has a prevalence of 4.9 percent, implying that 400,000 people have it.
The psychosocial Programme Officer in the Great Lakes Region, Simon Nsabiyeze, also noted that while the progress is remarkable, there are still challenges like capacity and lack of awareness.
“Todate we have three specialists in psychiatry, seven training overseas and others working and studying in the country. Awareness is also still a challenge because there are still many people out there who know nothing about the availability of these services,” Nsabiyeze told The New Times.
The World Mental Health Day falls on October 10, every year. Preparations to increase awareness about the prevalence of mental health issues and services available are underway.
Under the theme “enhancing treatment and promoting health,” Rwanda will join the rest of the world in these celebrations at a function slated to be held next week in Karongi, district, Western Province.