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Media and Mental Health in Uganda

F Kigozi
J Ssebunnya
D Kizza
S Ndyanabangi


Objective: The media is largely regarded as an important stakeholder in health service delivery, with a great influence on public
attitudes. However, little is known about its interest in mental health and the guiding factors that influence media coverage of mental
health issues. This article describes the importance accorded to mental health by the media and the factors that influence media
coverage of mental health issues in Uganda. Method: Semi-structured interviews were held with representatives from six
prominent media houses as part of the situational analysis of the mental health system in Uganda. Data was analyzed using Nvivo
7 qualitative data analysis software. Results: The media was found to be interested and actively involved in health initiatives, but
with little attention devoted to mental health. Coverage and interest in mental health was noted to be mainly dependent on the
individual journalists’ interests, and mostly for personal reasons. Low interest was largely attributed to mental health being
perceived as a non-priority area, and the fact that mental illness is not a major contributor to mortality. Media coverage and
reporting is guided by prioritization of the Health Department. Conclusion: The media in Uganda is an important stakeholder
in the health care system with a key role of advocacy, publicity and mass education. Media houses however are less interested in
mental health as evidenced by low coverage of mental health issues. This calls for advocacy and sensitization as a way of
persuading media for more involvement in mental health initiatives.

Key words: Media; Mental health; Uganda; Public

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eISSN: 1994-8220