More women on brink of suicide than men, mental health experts say

In May 2023, the Ministry of Health said over 14 million Ugandans suffer from varying degrees of mental illness. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Health experts say economic issues, including job loss, are a significant factor causing mental health issues to thousands of Ugandans.

Mental Health Uganda (MHU), an organization dedicated to mental health illness, has revealed through its hotlines that more women are contemplating suicide as compared to men.

According to MHU, they have registered about 4,000 calls through their hotlines in at least two years, of which 52 percent are men seeking counselling and 48 percent women.

“Women are contemplating suicide more, but men complete suicide about three times more than women. I don't know if science has proven this, but what we see is that men, even in general health practice, disclose less,” said Daniel Lubanga, MHU program manager.

Lubanga added: “Men have fewer health-seeking behaviors, so women speak out more when they are struggling. They often have a friend or someone they can talk to, and although they are considering suicide, because they are talking to someone, they find hope for the next day.”

Most callers to the organization face various challenges, including unemployment, job loss, lost money to betting, and sexual harassment.

“Economic issues are a significant factor, and depression is often associated with these issues. Many of the calls we receive on the helpline are related to economic problems and job loss,” Lubanga said.

Earlier this month, Kampala Metropolitan police expressed concern over a sharp rise in suicide cases after four incidents were registered in a single day.

These occurred on June 3 in Bulenga, Katwe, and Kiira. Two individuals committed suicide by hanging, while one Asian man threw himself from a building.

MHU Executive Director Dr Derrick Kizza Mbuga appealed to government to decriminalize suicide.

“We request government and police officers to decriminalize suicide. People who attempt suicide are likely to be charged. They should remove it from the Penal Code Act,” said Dr Kizza.

He added: “I don't know if a study has been done to see the impact of social media, but online bullying and harassment are major triggers for mental health problems, especially among young people.”

According to him, the closure of Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), which employed over 3,000 people directly and indirectly, is a significant contributor to mental illness.

Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that a life is lost every 40 seconds globally, with most deaths occurring among people aged between 15-29 years. Seventy-nine percent of these victims come from low-developed countries.