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Alarm as cases of depression and mental health illness spike

Thursday October 20 2022
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Ndera Psychiatrist Hospital says this year it received 7,817 patients battling depression. Picture: Cyril Ndegeya

By MOSES K. GAHIGI

The number of people battling depression and other mental health illnesses in the country are on the rise as impact of coronavirus pandemic continue to kick in.

People across different age groups and gender are increasingly facing mental health problems, ranging from depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, Acute and Transient Psychotic disorders, among others.

Data released by Ndera Psychiatrist Hospital indicated that since the beginning of the year, it has received 7,817 patients battling depression compared with 1,743 recorded last year.

The data shows that middle aged people between the ages of 20 to 39 years of age, majority of who are men are the most affected.

The hospital indicated that 54 percent of recorded patients were male while 46 per cent were female, while children under 19 represent 20 percent of the total number of patients.

Patients with cases of schizophrenia accounted for 35,581 cases this year, epilepsy 13,337, while scute and transient psychotic disorders were 10,977, while cases of bipolar disorders also spiked.

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In total, the facility, which is the country’s biggest mental hospital, received 96,357 patients this year, a 29.6 percent increase compared to last year.

In an interview with Rwanda Today, Joseph Kalisa, a leading psychiatrist attached to the University of Rwanda, said many factors could have led to the rise in cases, but the fact that more people are seeking help now is also a factor.

He said majority of the mental health cases manifesting now, especially depression has a close correlation with the coronavirus pandemic.

Spike in cases

That after the pandemic disrupted peoples' social patterns, lifestyles, exposed many to gender-based violence, and rendered many unemployed, it was just a matter of time for cases to spike.

“The coronavirus waves could be over and what we have are mental health waves, it’s unfortunate that there wasn’t ample preparation for this,” he said.

The prevailing economic contractions coming with inflation and spike in commodity prices, cases of cross generational trauma, are also playing a part.

During lockdowns and isolations many millennials binged on social media usage, and what we are seeing are effects unmitigated, excessive usage of social media platforms.

After the virus thawed and people went back to work, many ended up over-
working as if trying to compensate for the lost years, which Dr Kalisa says has led to a spike in depression cases.

The change in people’s working culture, where due to long periods of working from home which came not distinguishing work and resting time, has perpetuated the same indiscipline even post pandemic, hence taking a toll on many people.

Dr Kalisa said many of the country’s mental health practitioners are not well-versed with technology-induced causes of mental health illnesses because they are of a different generation.

“There are modern causative factors that have come with the technological age that a big chunk of our professionals might not be well versed with,” he said.

He noted that if mental health intervention policies put more efforts at the lower familial and community levels, by setting up support systems for families to help in mental health situations, it would have been far more beneficial.

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