Mental Health Outreach

Sub-Saharan Africa contributes substantially to the global mental health burden. Most of the mental health interventions/practices in sub-Saharan Africa are facility based. The government policies require that patients (with their relatives) should travel to receive care in the government health units. However, this is usually difficult due to the double (poverty and mental illness) burden experienced by the patients and their families. In the recent past, there are a number of good policies in place but lacking local evidence and practicalities. The situation is even worse for people living in the hard to reach areas and for the children and adolescents who may require special skills for diagnosis of their mental health problems and their management.

In response to the above need, the Department Psychiatry of Mbarara University of Science and Technology/Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital established a Community Mental Health Outreach programme. It was established more than ten years ago to meet the needs of the rural poor communities in southwestern Uganda.

Currently, the outreach is to three communities:

  • Mushanga (Sheema district)

  • Rubindi (Mbarara district)

  • Nyakayojo (Mbarara district)

The main focus of the community outreach programme is to improve access to psychiatric care by taking services in the community where the majority of the people with mental health problems live. These outreaches also provide opportunities for research and training for staff and students.

The department conducts monthly outreaches to each of the communities. The outreach is conducted by staff and graduate students of Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) and Mbarara regional referral hospital (MRRH) located in theupcoming city of Mbarara. The department of psychiatry currently has three psychiatrists, three psychiatric clinical officers, eight psychiatric nurses, three Occupational therapists, two counselors and two social workers. On average, the department reaches out 1000 new persons with mental illness every yearin a catchment area with a population of approximately 5 million people.