BACKGROUND: The Ugandan government recognizes mental health as a serious public health and development concern, and has of recent implemented a number of reforms aimed at strengthening the country's mental health system. The aim of this study was to provide a profile of the current mental health policy, legislation and services in Uganda. METHODS: A survey was conducted of public sector mental health policy and legislation, and service resources and utilisation in Uganda, in the year 2005, using the World Health Organization's Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS) Version 2.2. RESULTS: Uganda's draft mental health policy encompasses many positive reforms, including decentralization and integration of mental health services into Primary Health Care (PHC). The mental health legislation is however outdated and offensive. Services are still significantly underfunded (with only 1% of the health expenditure going to mental health), and skewed towards urban areas. Per 100,000 population, there were 1.83 beds in mental hospitals, 1.4 beds in community based psychiatric inpatient units, and 0.42 beds in forensic facilities. The total personnel working in mental health facilities were 310 (1.13 per 100,000 population). Only 0.8% of the medical doctors and 4% of the nurses had specialized in psychiatry. CONCLUSION: Although there have been important developments in Uganda's mental health policy and services, there remains a number of shortcomings, especially in terms of resources and service delivery. There is an urgent need for more research on the current burden of mental disorders and the functioning of mental health programs and services in Uganda.
International Journal of Mental Health Systems (2010) 4 (1) 1