The mission statement of Mental Health Uganda is:
"To create a unified voice that influences the provision of required services and opportunities in favour of people with and survivors of mental illness in Uganda through capacity building, networking advocacy and partnership."
Since 2010, Gulu has become one of the pioneering chapters of the national service user organisation Mental Health Uganda, leveraging local and international partnerships to carry out innovative peer support, awareness and advocacy, and livelihood activities.
Peer support workers conduct routine home visits to recovering service users by bicycle in order to:
- Assist reintegration with the family and community
- Provide peer-to-peer guidance and psychosocial support
- Encourage adherence to treatment
Awareness and advocacy
Mental Health Awareness training developed through the Sheffield Gulu Mental Health Partnership are used by peer support workers from Mental Health Uganda, Gulu to further educate service users, community members, local leaders and caregivers on priority mental health conditions. Members also participate in radio shows and special events at the local, national and international level, to further raise awareness.
Mental Health Uganda, Gulu has collaborated with Mental Disability Advocacy Centre (MDAC) to document the situation of people living with mental health problems, focusing on torture and ill treatment, family and community support, and education and employment.
Mental Health Uganda, Gulu has initiated a variety of income-generating activities, as well as a local savings scheme, for economic empowerment. Livelihood activities are designed to help break the cycle of poverty and mental illness, subsidize cost of treatment, bring service users a sense of purpose in their daily lives, and combat stigma by demonstrating to families and communities that they have something valuable to contribute.
A candle-making workshop was set up in the Gulu Regional Referral Hospital in 2013, and 18 service users from Gulu municipality were trained by peers. Two participants were able to set up their own workshops following training, though the hospital workshop continues to produce candles, proceeds from which are shared between the service users and Mental Health Uganda, Gulu, offsetting operation costs.
Liquid soap production
Preparations are underway to begin producing liquid soap at the hospital, in addition to candles. The stock of liquid soap is unreliable. On-site soap production could improve the hygiene of hospital services, as well as the hygiene of service users' home environments, while generating a reliable income for members and for the Uganda Mental Health, Gulu chapter.
"Pass a Goat"
Inspired by the popular Send a Cow project and government restocking programmes in northern Uganda, the "Pass a Goat" scheme aims to generate a modest income for service users in rural areas. Five female goats are purchased for each of five sub-counties, and members themselves prioritise the order in which goats will be distributed. The first kid is passed on to the next member in line, who in turn passes on a kid to the next member, until all members in the sub-county have a goat which they may continue to breed as a sustainable source of income.
A longer-term investment in sustainable livelihoods is Gulu's new tree planting project. Unused land is donated to grow pine trees in four parishes. Approximately 25 members in each parish are responsible for tending the trees over a 15 year period, after which the trees may be felled as a lucrative source of lumber.
Local savings scheme
Mental Health Uganda, Gulu allows members to contribute to a shared savings scheme. Members contribute whatever and whenever they are able, and collective savings are then drawn upon for short-term loans. These loans are repaid with interest. At the end of each year, in time for the holidays, members receive a lump sum of all their savings, plus whatever interest has accumulated.
Vision for the future
In the future, the Gulu chapter aims to develop a child support fund, enabling service users to provide school fees for their children to bring hope and stop the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Mental Health Uganda, Gulu also wishes to create a "model mental health house", which may be used as a community centre to encourage social contact between service users and community members, as well as peaceful relations between neighbours in this war-affected region. Community-based rehabilitation centres will ideally be established in each sub-county to support recovery close to home.
Mental Health Uganda, Gulu is part of the Sheffield-Gulu Mental Health Partnership, which includes:
United Kingdom partners
- Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation
- University Hospital of South Manchester
- University of Sheffield Clinical Psychology Unit, Department of Psychology
- Rotary Clubs of Sheffield
- Health Uganda Group
- Sheffield Health International Partnerships
- Commonwealth Fellowship Programme
- Mental Health Uganda (parent organisation)
- Gulu Regional Referral Hospital (host institution)
- Rotary Clubs of Gulu