Rwanda yesterday joined the rest of the world in marking the ‘World Mental Health Day’ with a call to health workers to give mental health more attention.
The event kicked off with a ‘walk to remember’, by stakeholders in the health sector, from the City Centre roundabout to the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) where the celebrations were held.
Francois Gishoma, the president of Rwanda Diabetes Association (ARD) observed that about 60 percent of people with diabetes also get mental health problems.
Dr. Theobald Hategekimana, CHUK Director General observed that most of the mental cases are caused by chronic diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular, diabetes and respiratory illness.
“People with chronic diseases have higher rates of mental health problems,” Hategekimana observed.
It is said that the four chronic diseases also account for 60 percent of the world’s deaths, and 80 percent of these take place in the poorest populations of the world.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO) 2010 report, between 75 percent and 85 percent of people with mental health, do not have access to any form of mental health treatment and 90 of them are unemployed.
World Mental Health Day which is always marked on October 10; aims at raising public awareness on mental health issues and promote more open discussions of mental disorders, and investment in prevention and treatment services.
The treatment gap for mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders is formidable especially in poor countries.
This year’s theme is: “Mental health and chronic physical illness: The need for continued and integrated care.”
Dr Agnes Binagwaho, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, who presided over the event, said that a department in the ministry was set up to address the issue of non communicable mental health diseases.
“We need to also deal with mental health problems of people with chronic physical illnesses and physical care of mental health sufferers through continued integrated care. Both physical and mental illnesses are linked,” Binagwaho said.
Since 2005 when the ministry adopted a national policy on Mental Health, the policy has since been integrated in the complementary health care packages in all District Hospitals.