In recent years, the Ministry of Health has made significant progress in tackling mental health disorders, one of the frequently cited health problems in the country.
According to the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), they continue to have very high levels of trauma and other psychosocial problems, mainly resulting from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Dr William Rutagengwa, Director of ADEPR-Nyamata District Hospital, says mental health issues have a negative impact on social cohesion and sustainable livelihoods.
Although Rwanda has a clear mental health policy, it says there is still a problem of low utilization of mental health services despite existing access challenges in terms of infrastructure, human resources and facilities.
Health staff attend to Bugesera residents during the launch of the mobile clinic where people were screened for mental health disorders. Photos/Courtesy
This gap in access to mental health services, he says, is partly caused by lack of knowledge about available services, fear of being victimized in society after visiting a mental health facility, and long journeys to go to available centres.
Sylvester Twizerimana, a psychologist in Rubavu district, says that without adequate information, many people in society still associate mental health issues with witchcraft.
He adds that this is a clear indication that many do not have the information to let them know that mental illness is a condition that needs to be treated, just like other health issues.
“Lack of sufficient information also leads to stigma where victims and those around them are afraid to seek help for fear of what society will say or think about them, which is a huge challenge when it comes to the mental health,” he said.
The Rwanda Mental Health Survey (RMHS) released by RBC in 2018 revealed that the prevalence of several mental disorders is above the global average and is particularly cited among genocide survivors.
The RMHS indicates that the level of awareness of the mental health services offered is 61.7%, compared to a utilization rate of 5.3%.
Furthermore, the survey indicated that the state of mental health in Rwanda showed that less than 2% of the population had access to mental health services, leaving a big gap in reaching people who needed these services. services.
As one of the ways to curb this, last week the Ministry of Health, in partnership with Interpeace, an international peacebuilding organization, launched mobile mental health clinics in Bugesera district, in Eastern Province, to extend medical services to the public. The mobile clinic intends to carry out awareness campaigns throughout the district.
According to the officials, this is an innovative and unique solution that will contribute to the achievement of the National Transformation Strategy (NST1) and Rwanda Development Vision 2050, which consider the good health and well-being of population as a national priority.
Frank Kayitare, Interpeace regional representative for the Great Lakes, said the service is equipped with a vehicle that will travel to communities in Bugesera district, handed over to the ADEPR church in the district.
It also has other equipment, including tablets, office furniture, stationery and medical mental health equipment.
“It aims to strengthen mental health service delivery in all health centers in Bugesera district. The clinic will carry out regular screenings in communities, health centers and public places including markets and referrals located in the district,” Kayitare said.
It will also help mental health professionals conduct clinical trial processes and provide home care for patients.
The mobile clinic is also equipped with a workstation for a doctor and a nurse, two passenger seats, an Internet connection, a folding bed for emergency use (such as an ambulance) and two large waterproof tent extensions attached to vehicle body.
However, according to officials, access to mental health treatment remains a challenge due to capacity constraints and people’s reluctance to use available services.