Prof Eli Katunguka calls for policies and regulations on access to commonly abused drugs

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Prof Eli Katunguka Rwakishaya, VC Kyambogo University

By Leonard Kamugisha Akida and Jasper Twesige,

NATIONAL

The Vice Chancellor of Kyambogo University Prof Eli Katunguka Rwakishaaya has asked government to come up with policies and regulations limiting access to commonly abused prescription drugs one way of combating suicide in the country.

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“There are no policies in Uganda limiting people from accessing certain drug types in pharmacies, drug shops and clinics. As the coutry, we should put up mechanisms to restrict people from accessing drugs that are known to be highly abused as well as restricting self-prescriptions,” he said

Prof Katunguka made the remarks while speaking to journalists at Kyambogo Anti-Suicide Public Lecture at the University’s CTF Auditorium on Wednesday.

According to him, making policies and regulations that limit access to commonly abused prescription drugs, also known as Retail Access Restrictions will help government and its agencies like the ministry of health, medical insurances set rules and guidelines on how many pills can be dispensed at a time, or how many prescriptions can be dispensed at once when a person goes to fill prescriptions at a pharmacy or drug shop.

This he believes will limit the amount or type of prescription drugs one person can obtain individually in order to to reduce the amount of controlled drugs in circulation throughout the community and reduce on drug abuse which is a risk factor to suicide.

On Wednesay, Kyambogo University through her Guidance and Counseling Unit and other partners such as LEM Mindfulness, Strong Minds Uganda, Uganda Counseling Association held an Anti-Suicide Public Lecture through which ‘Anti-Suicide Campaign’ was launched with an aim to zero down cases of suicide in Kyambogo University and other universities in Uganda.

Since April  last year, Kyambogo University lost three of their students to alleged suicide. They include Nathan Luyomba, a student of mechanical engineering who was on 23 April, 2021 found dead in his room in Kisenyi Kyambogo, Brian Wetaka,an alumnus and graduate of Bachelor of Science and Chemical Engineering who jumped off the Engineering building at the North dying instantly leaving behind a suicide note and a female identified as Beatrice Akol, a final year student of Social Sciences (SWASSA). The trio died of alleged suicide.

Winfred Kyoshaba, the university senior counsellor attributes suicide and suicide attempts cases to frustrating relationships, financial and family challenges among others.

Similarly, the Unversity Vice Chancellor Prof Katunguka does not differ from Kyoshaba. According to him, students are experiencing many challenges which they think committing suicide is the easiest solution to their problems.

WATCH VIDEO “There are so many pressures that young people go through, challenges of relationships, unemployment etc which make them think that life is not worth living and they want to end their lives,” he said

HIV testing services ongoing by Uganda Counseling AAssociation during the Kyambogo University Anti-Suicide Campaign at KYU Kampala.

Katunguka expressed preparedness to end suicide cases in Kyambogo and pledged to increase on staffing of the Guidance and Counselling department to reduce on the students – counselor ration. He also hailed the event organizers for considering Kyambogo University which had in the recent past become prone to suicide noting that creating mental health and suicide awareness positively impacts the lives of students.

“I am glad that this talk is going on and through this talk, I hope some lives will be saved.” He added.

Dr Ruth Senyonyi, the provincial presidentof the Mothers Union in the Church of Uganda, also a Mental Health consultant was a key note speaker at the event. She suggests for the restoration of hopes to the victims of suicide ideation their families.

Dr. Ruth Senyonyi speaking at #KYUPublicLecture on Anti-Suicide on Wednesday 8th June,2022

“Suicide is the most bereavement crisis for a family to face and resolve in effective manner”, Dr. Senyonyi said citing Cain, 1972.

She further challenged people with thoughts of committing suicide always to consider the effects of their decisions and how they impact those around them. She stated that suicide survivors can easily develop urging students and the general public to have second thoughts before harming and or ending their lives.

“In all things it is better to hope than to despair. – Von Goethe”, she quoted adding: “Creating hope through action reminds us that there are alternatives to suicide.”

She highlighted means to treating suicide ideation such as talking to a therapist, lifestyles changes, seeking for medical attention and health challenges treatments both at personal and national levels.

Other speakers at the event were Dr. James Mugisha, (PhD in Suicidology), Rev. Eng. Dr. Emmanuel Mwesigwa, the chaplain Kyambogo University Anglican Community among others.

Rev. Mwesigwa challenged the audience disclosing that people who die by suicide are given a special funeral rites in church imploring the audience to go for Counseling whenever affected with suicide temperances

“Counselling should be done in every public and private offices starting with the clergy, teachers, doctors, lawyers and other people with avenues to speak to many people,” he recommended.

In addition, Cynthia Mukiibi, team members at LEM Mindfulness states that community interventions can help in reducing cases of suicide in the communities.

“Community members should provide support to vulnerable persons and those who get believed to suicide. Emphasise conversations about mental health with the victims to help them overome mental illnesses than discriminating and stigmatizing them”, urged Mukiibi

While Christine Nanyondo at Strong Minds Uganda has asked Universities and other stakeholders to prioritize mental health and create awareness on suicide among students, staff and the sorrounding community.

She asked students to go for Mental Health screening and or contact Strong Minds Uganda on 252 for free professional counselling services.

About Anti-Suicide Campaign 

The Anti-Suicide Campaign is an event by Love, Empathy and Mindfulness (LEM Mindfulness), a mental health organisation providing mentorship, psychosocial support and counselling services aiming to create awareness on mental health and end suicide in universities in Uganda.

Students attending counseling session by LEM Mindfulness at Kyambogo University during the University Anti-Suicide Public Lecture on Wednesday

The organisation partners with universities and other mental health organisations to smoothly run the campaign.

At Kyambogo University, the campaign has run for 4 days with students participating in numerous activities such as HIV counseling and testing, psychological support, blood donations and civic education on mental health.

The event was organised majory by the University under their Guidance and Counselling Unit and other partners like Strong Minds Uganda, Uganda Blood Bank, and Uganda Counselling Association.

Advocate Carol Naamara at LEM Mindfulness told Parrots UG that the programme will also extend to other universities (public & private) and other institutions of learning.

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