Stakeholder's perceptions of help-seeking behaviour among people with mental health problems in Uganda

INTRODUCTION: Mental health facilities in Uganda remain underutilized, despite efforts to decentralize the services. One of the possible explanations for this is the help-seeking behaviours of people with mental health problems. Unfortunately little is known about the factors that influence the help-seeking behaviours. Delays in seeking proper treatment are known to compromise the outcome of the care.AIM:To examine the help-seeking behaviours of individuals with mental health problems, and the factors that may influence such behaviours in Uganda. METHOD:Sixty-two interviews and six focus groups were conducted with stakeholders drawn from national and district levels. Thematic analysis of the data was conducted using a framework analysis approach. RESULTS: The findings revealed that in some Ugandan communities, help is mostly sought from traditional healers initially, whereas western form of care is usually considered as a last resort. The factors found to influence help-seeking behaviour within the community include: beliefs about the causes of mental illness, the nature of service delivery, accessibility and cost, stigma. CONCLUSION: Increasing the uptake of mental health services requires dedicating more human and financial resources to conventional mental health services. Better understanding of socio-cultural factors that may influence accessibility, engagement and collaboration with traditional healers and conventional practitioners is also urgently required.