Mental health among adolescents in Uganda and the underlying issues
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World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community” (WHO, 2022), while Mental illnesses/disorders are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior and always associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities (American Psychiatric Association, 2018). In a June (2022) WHO report, it is revealed that 12.5% of the world’s population live with a mental disorder and 14% of adolescents experience a mental disorder, accounting for 13% of the global burden of disease in this age group. Common mental disorders include; anxiety disorders and depression and they negatively affect how one feels, the way one thinks and acts. Mental illness causes among others include; one’s life experiences - such as stress, history of abuse, use of alcohol and drugs. Mental health care in Uganda still lags behind and little attention has been given to it as evidenced by insignificant funding and attention given to it yet the country is among the leading nations in Africa with high levels of depression standing at 4.6% (Miller et al., 2020). Also 2.9% of Ugandans live with anxiety (WHO, 2017). Adolescent stage (10-19 years) is very crucial in shaping future health of an individual. Studies show that the consequences of failing to address adolescent mental health conditions at this stage extend to adulthood, thus impairing both physical and mental health and in the long run limiting opportunities to lead a fulfilling life as adults. Anxiety and behavioral disorders are among the leading causes of mental illness and disability among adolescents. Harsh parenting and domestic violence is often experienced at this stage of life. Parents and caretakers of these adolescents should be greatly concerned and should create favorable environment for these teens to freely enhance their potentials. All stake holders, parents/care givers, policy makers; health advocates should triple their efforts in improving mental health among the adolescents and of course with the outbreak of Covid-19 in the word in late 2019 and subsequent lockdowns, where school going adolescents had to stay off school for months, mental health should never again be considered a luxury.