Gaps in mental health support in schools still too big

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There is always a strike or that violence in schools and no year goes without one. From the causes to the impact, the one thing that is often grounded in there is mental health.

Unfortunately, not many bring it up. And while it stays in the back of all the 'whys' and 'ohs', the issue remain unresolved.

A 2016 study on primary school learners’ mental health in Uganda and its association with school violence, for instance, experiences of violence from school staff and other students in the past week were strongly associated with mental health difficulties.

The study by Barbara F. Thumann, Ula Nur, Dipak Naker and Karen M. Devries was published in the MC Public Health peer-reviewed scientific journal that covers epidemiology of disease and various aspects of public health.

"These findings suggest that violence in school and low connectedness to school and peers are independently associated with mental health difficulties and interventions should address both concurrently," the researchers said.

They recommended extra support may be needed for students in urban schools.

To address these issues, there's a need for increased awareness, training, and resources to support mental health in Ugandan schools.

This could include providing training for teachers and staff on how to recognise and respond to mental health issues, increasing access to school-based counselling services, and fostering partnerships between schools and mental health professionals in the community.

Additionally, efforts to reduce stigma and promote mental health literacy among students, teachers, and parents are crucial for creating a supportive school environment where students feel safe seeking help when needed.

Mental health support in schools often falls short of what is needed. Here are some key issues:

Lack of awareness

There's often a lack of awareness among educators, students, and parents about mental health issues and their impact on academic performance and overall well-being.


Like in many other societies, there's a stigma attached to mental health problems in Uganda. This stigma can prevent students from seeking help or disclosing their struggles to teachers or peers.

Limited resources

Schools in Uganda often lack the resources to provide adequate mental health support.

There's a shortage of school counselors or mental health professionals who can offer guidance and assistance to students in need.

High student-to-teacher ratio

Large class sizes and limited staff mean that teachers may not have the time or capacity to address the individual mental health needs of their students.

Trauma and stress

Many students in Uganda face significant stressors such as poverty, family problems, and violence, which can have a profound impact on their mental health. Schools may not have the resources or training to effectively support students who have experienced trauma.

Lack of government support

While the Ugandan government has recognized the importance of mental health and has taken steps to address it at the national level, there's still a need for more investment in mental health services, including those targeted specifically at schools.

Cultural factors

Cultural beliefs and practices can also influence attitudes toward mental health in schools.

Some students and families may prefer traditional healing methods over seeking professional help, which can further exacerbate mental health challenges.

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