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Dr. Nyanzi concerned about Church approach to mental health

Dr Stella Nyanzi appears before Health Committee of Parliament on Wednesday. Courtecy Photo.

Ugandan academic and activist Dr. Stella Nyanzi has told the Health Committee of Parliament discussing the Mental Health Bill, 2014 to address the issue of Churches that admit mentally ill people for spiritual healing.

The 43-year-old make these remarks on Wednesday as she tabled her opinion on the bill that seeks to among others provide for the admission, treatment and discharge of persons with mental illnesses from health and mental units.

It is long over due, the out spoken mother of twins said.

She expressed concern over healthcare facilities not having the capacity to handle mental illnesses, noting that government has let down the mental fraternity.

“So many bills have been enacted and accented to by President Museveni but a bill pertaining to the mental health being of Ugandans has been ignored for 14 years,” she stated.

“A lot of Ugandans including many of you in this room have got mental illness. One day these laws will come and bite your own. All of you have got different forms of mental illnesses here because of the trauma that happened to you in this house last month,” Stella Nyanzi said. “You may think that you are drafting the bill for Stella Nyanzi and those at Butabika but you are doing this for me and you who are implicated in this.”

Adding her voice to that of Butabika Hospital Deputy Executive Director Juliet Nakku, Dr Stella Nyanzi stressed how the Bill is silent about legal minors. She also explained how Government critiques and members of opposition are being targeted by this law.

A local news daily reported last month that the principles of the Mental Health Bill were presented before cabinet in 2008 before the Bill was tabled before the Ninth Parliament. It was however not handled and saved for the Tenth Parliament.

The Bill indicates gaps in the 1964 Mental Treatment Act saying “it is outdated and does not take into account the discovery of medicines and other treatment interventions that have revolutionized the care of persons with mental disorders.”

“The overall objective of the Mental Treatment Act is to remove persons with mental disorders from society and keep them in confinement without serious consideration for clinical care. The current law has no provision for voluntary admission to hospital or other health facilities,” Sarah Opendi the State Minister of Health-General Duties said.

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