Schizophrenia accounts for 17% of mental illnesses - RBC

Schizophrenia and other psychosis accounted for 17 per cent of the number of people who consulted for mental illness last year, eight per cent of whom were new cases, statistics from Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) show.
A mental health campaign in 2010 in Kigali. (File)
A mental health campaign in 2010 in Kigali. (File)

Schizophrenia and other psychosis accounted for 17 per cent of the number of people who consulted for mental illness last year, eight per cent of whom were new cases, statistics from Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) show.

This was revealed as Rwanda marked the Mental Health Day which falls on October 10. The day was marked under the theme; “Living with schizophrenia.”

According to Jean Damascene Iyamuremye, the head of mental health care development at RBC, the day was marked in Musanze District with the objective of raising awareness of mental health issues  and mobilising efforts in support of mental health.

Jeanne d’Arc Dusabeyezu, the in-charge of drug abuse prevention and treatment at RBC, attributes the increase in schizophrenia  cases to awareness.

“It’s not that schizophrenia cases are on the increase, it’s just that increased awareness has encouraged more people to  go for consultation,” she said.  

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterised by abnormal social behaviour and failure to recognise what is real. Common symptoms include false beliefs, unclear thinking, auditory hallucinations, reduced social engagement and inactivity, according to medics.

Efforts in place

Claver Haragirimana, the director of OPROMAMER, a local initiative that advocates for rights of mental health victims, says they have many programmes in place to reach out to mental illness victims.

“We have given out a grain milling machine to an eight-member co-operative comprising patients of schizophrenia in Rusororo, Gasabo District. We have also built a modern food stall in Kimironko for six women living with HIV and schizophrenia and started a  mush-room farming project, worth Rwf3 million to help men and women living with Schizophrenia in Ndera, Kicukiro District,”he said.

He added that his organisation has representatives at sector level charged with monitoring conditions of patients and encouraging them stick to prescribed medication.

 Challenges

Dusabeyezu says people living with Schizophrenia still suffer from stigma, violence and exploitation.

“These people are exploited for example, relatives sell off their property without their consent and deny them proceeds on the ground that they will ‘misuse’ the money,” Haragirimana said.

He noted that parents are also often reluctant to pay school fees for children who are schizophrenic.

Statistics

Currently, all 42 district hospitals, Ndera -neuro-psychiatric Hospital and the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), offer schizophrenia care.

Every year, 50 general medical practioners and 200 nurses train in mental health management, courtesy of the Health ministry.

Ndera-neuro-psychiatric Hospital, a major mental health referral,  used a general budget of Rwf2 billion last year.

Over 26 million people worldwide are suffering from Schizophrenia.

Despite being a treatable disorder, more than 50 per cent of people with schizophrenia cannot access adequate treatment, with90 per cent of people with untreated schizophrenia living in the developing world.

Statistics also indicate that between ten and 15 per cent of schizophrenia victims commit suicide worldwide.