Facts and Figures
about mental illness in Uganda
How many people are affected?
• It is difficult to be sure the prevalence of specific mental health disorders in Uganda because the data collected is patchy
• Overall, it has been estimated that 35% of people in Uganda face mental health challenges (1)
• One study found that almost 1 in 5 people in rural Northern Uganda had symptoms consistent with depression (2)
• The treatment gap is thought to be as high as 90% - that means, only 1/10 seeking and receiving the care and treatment they need
• Arguably the worst outcome from mental illness is lost of life through suicide. According to the WHO, in 2016 there were 4,105 deaths by suicide in Uganda (3), about 1.5% of total deaths. However, suicide is underreported in Uganda because of stigma
How many mental health care professionals are there?
• In Uganda, the ratio of mental health care professionals to the population is low. There are just 6.4 psychiatric nurses, 0.09 psychiatrists, 0.2 psychiatric clinical officers, 0.1 psychologists, 0.01 social workers and 0.01 occupational therapists per 100,000 people! (4)
How much is spent on mental health care?
• Approximately 8.5% of the government budget is spent on health care, with just 0.9% of this spent on mental health care. (4)
COVID-19 and mental health in Uganda
• The COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health measures risk a global mental health crisis.
• Experts in Uganda have reported a rise in anxiety, depression and suicidality as well as alcohol and substance abuse and cases of domestic violence (reported in the news here)
• Young people have been affected by school and university closures and uncertainty about the future job market
• One good thing is, the Ministry of Health in Uganda is aware. You can download their information sheet titled “What you need to know about mental health” here.
1. Ssanyu R. Mental Illness and Exclusion: Putting Mental Health on the Development Agenda [Internet]. Chronic Poverty Research Centre.; 2007 [cited 2020 Sep 26]. Available from:
2. Ovuga E, Boardman J, Wasserman D. The prevalence of depression in two districts of Uganda. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol. 2005 Jun 1;40(6):439–45.
3. World Health Organisation. Suicide in the world - Global Health Estimates [Internet]. 2019. Available from: file:///C:/Users/hp/Downloads/WHO-MSD-MER-19.3-eng.pdf
4. Ssebunnya J, Kangere S, Mugisha J, Docrat S, Chisholm D, Lund C, et al. Potential strategies for sustainably financing mental health care in Uganda. International Journal of Mental Health Systems. 2018 Dec 5;12(1):74.