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.
African Journal of Psychiatry (2010) 13 (2) 125-127