The Ministry of Health through Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) has announced plans to carry out another research on mental health in Rwanda as a better way of understanding the current status of the country following COVID-19 pandemic.
The planned research expected to be conducted next year will update current data from 2018 which showed high cases of mental health problems amongst youth and genocide survivors.
The 2018 Rwanda Mental Health Survey found that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is eight-fold more prevalent among Genocide survivors compared to the general population (27.9% vs 3.6%).
The research also shows PTSD as the second leading cause of mental disorders behind depression (35.0 %) and at least one of five Rwandans have a mental health condition.
“We will have to conduct another research next year so as to understand the current status of mental health in the country,” Dr. Yvonne Kayiteshonga the Mental Health Division Manager at RBC told a media briefing this Monday March 7, 2022.
With the anticipated economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Rwandans, Kayiteshonga said the research will enable the institution to understand its impact though there are good signs of recovery informed by the country’s resilience.
RBC Mental health statistics show that even though numbers of persons seeking medical attention dropped by 20%, mental health cases increased.
For example; suicide attempts among men increased from 54.8% in 2019 to 60.07% in 2020 and new cases as a result of the pandemic socio-economic pressure on the general population depression (highest) cases increased in March 2020 to 3036 from 1431 in March 2019.
So far many countries have conducted quantitative and qualitative research to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which has had varying impact on different economies and societies globally.
Kayiteshonga said that considering the impact of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, and the COVID-19 pandemic, Rwandans have proven to be resilient in the face of incidences that have caused more mental health problems.
“This has been possible because of the government’s focus on putting in place policies and infrastructure needed. We are also counting on the government economic recovery initiative to address cases of mental health caused by the economic stress of the pandemic,” Kayiteshonga said.
Currently all referral, district hospital and 512 health centers in the country provide mental health services with at least two specialists in each service, however RBC indicates that there has been a reduced uptake of the mental health services due to pandemic lockdowns and social factors including fear for social victimization.
This adds to over 55,000 Health Workers and community-based health specialists have been trained on handling cases of trauma and mental health cases during the genocide commemoration period.
With these initiatives in place, and slow uptake of mental health services Kayiteshonga said that the next step is for Rwandans to learn how to seek mental health care services and help their neighbors with signs of mental disorders to seek help immediately.
“Our new call is to all Rwandans to be concerned of the others’ welfare, to own this process of addressing mental health issues by learning a culture of talking to each other. We have proven to be a resilient society, thus we will be the resilient factor to others,” Kayiteshonga said.
Claire Nancy Misago, the Director of Community Mental Health Interventions Unit at RBC also revealed that the institution is currently carrying out a data collection of persons with known cases of mental health in order to intervene immediately and have the affected persons reintegrated in society.