At least one in every four Rwandan youth suffer from mental disorders, some of whom are victims of drug abuse, a report by the Rwanda Biomedical Centre notes.
“The numbers are devastating; our youth have abused drugs to the extent of damaging their brain. Most of them are in secondary schools and higher learning institutions,” said the division manager at the mental health department of the RBC, Jean-Damascene Iyamuremye.
“The number of young people committing suicide, admitted to hospitals, and those going to rehabilitation centres is rising steadily.”
He said that youth who have suffered violence form a significant number of the rising cases of mental illness.
According to the RBC report, between 10 per cent and 12 per cent of the 39 per cent total youth population in the country are mental health patients.
However, the country has only 12 psychiatrists and about 100 nurses trained on the basics of mental illnesses in the country’s referral and 30 district hospitals.
“The budget allocated for mental illness is still very small compared with that of other health departments, making it difficult to treat patients,” said Dr Iyamuremye.
He, however, decried the fact that patients who get well, are discriminated against in their communities, with some of them even losing their jobs.
“We are fighting the illness and struggling to overcome stigma at the same time,” said Dr Iyamuremye.
Eugen Murasira is among mental health patients who lost their jobs. “ I was dismissed after my employer found out I had sought mental health treatment. I used to experience extreme episodes of fear and anxiety ahead of an event to the point I was unable to perform my daily chores,” said Mr Murasira. “I then sought treatment and but when I returned to work, I was treated as though I was still suffering from a mental disorder.”
There are a lot more people suffering from mental disorders than official figures give, but they do not get help for fear of stigma, he added.
According to the RBC director general Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the main causes of mental illness in Rwanda are exposure to drugs, immoral and dirty films, pornography, and both sexual and physical violence.