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Message from the executive director - Janet Wambedde


FDNC has worked in local communities of Eastern Uganda for the last 20 years.  On identifying some of the development challenges in the different communities, FDNC pioneered the community health programme, where a number of community volunteers were trained to handle challenges of primary health care including; family planning and reproductive health, home and community sanitation and hygiene, safe motherhood, personal hygiene, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS and STD/Is, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission, Immunisation, First Aid and emergency response.  To date, these challenges have been ably addressed by our teams and a number of other organisations have replicated these ideas. FDNC has recognised how mental health aspect is underrated in the area of Primary Health as a condition that does not get enough attention with many misconceptions that get in the way of people getting the support needed. Mental health and psychiatric illness are given inadequate attention by the medical system and the resources are limited with many other challenges.

The 2012 World Health in Development report sites lack of reliable data on the prevalence of mental health in Uganda since few epidemiological studies have been conducted in the field of Mental Health. Accordingly, an estimated 35% of Ugandans suffer from some form of mental health disorder against the estimated global prevalence 13% (3% severe and 10% mild to moderate mental illness- (Basangwa, 2004; as cited by Kigozi et al 2008)
FDNC did carry out a baseline survey and additionally accessed data from different stakeholders, and got relevant statistics as well as information that will lead us to appropriate interventions. Some of the findings on mental illnesses include the following;

  • 1. Community’s perception on the cause of mental illness is usually associated to witchcraft. Out of 300 persons interviewed at 1st visit, over 90% confess having visited a diviner/ pastor with assumption that the challenge is a spiritual one. Over 60% of the attendants will continue visiting diviners/pastors even when the patients are on medical treatment.
  • 2. The medical personnel however give two major causes of mental illnesses namely; genetic (passed on from generation to generation) and physical conditions (e.g. birth defects, accidents, illnesses, trauma, loss of job or relationships etc.
  • 3. There are diverse impacts experienced by people and families who have had mental illnesses and challenges. The impact is suffered by the individual patients, their families, society as well as the country at large.
  • 4. People with mental illnesses are discriminated, excluded, lack information, marginalised, rejected and isolated.  Many times their rights are abused and they have limited access to basic needs like shelter, medication, food, and clothing as well as life skills for survival. They therefore find themselves helpless and without any form of support from anybody/ institution.

FDNC has experienced first-hand with mental illness (a schizophrenic closer relative tracing back from 1991) and as an Organisation founded based on life gruelling experiences, it is clearly known how tough and challenging mental illness affects both the patient family and the community as so, as usual FDNC takes another leap to pioneer with a strong will to pursue it.
Increasingly, there are many people experiencing challenges of mental health in Uganda and in the course of the year ending June 2016, FDNC closely interacted with Mbale Regional Referral Hospital’s mental health unit staff to understand major causes and effects of mental health illnesses in the region.
From first-hand experience; the greatest percentage of mental health patients access medical support only when their conditions are in advanced stages andost of the people in the communities still believe that mental health is associated to witchcraft and first visit diviners and when their situations haven't changed, that is when they go for medical attention.  In the process, the patients are psychologically afflicted making their conditions even worse.
Evidently, cases of mental health patients are on the increase. While interviewing some health workers to find out the major cause of the increase and their answers were that there were varying reasons ranging from inherent patterns, life stresses caused by struggling for survival, frustrations, drug use and the like.
To this effect FDNC has launched a Psycho Social Support Centre (a transitioning facility) to offer integrated services to some minimal mentally ill persons and their care givers.  This Centre aims first at raising awareness of true causes of mental illness as well as addressing the unique needs and challenges so as to enable these people to enjoy their lives just as other people do and in there to share feelings, prayers and thoughts to many other persons undergoing similar situations among many more planned valuable activities and services.
In collaboration with the Mbale Regional Hospital Mental Health this facility will help in bridging the missing gap as there is more interest to working to accept that people with mental illness need integrated care, psych meds, diet, exercise and calm environment, and talk therapy with a task to carry out advocacy campaigns so that we address this challenge that is on the upswing here and probably network and collaborate better.
Seeking for partnerships is never an easy task especially contacting people and organisations that we are mutually not familiar with. However, FDNC knows this kind of programme will go a long way in supplementing efforts as this world has lots more challenges and so, sharing with people of passion might have ideas and suggestions to contribute to mental health in creating a better living people suffering from this tough but presumably manageable condition. Therefore, family, friends and well-wishers holistic support is most valuable.

 Janet Wambedde
Executive Director.