Given the increasing cases of mental illness in the country coupled with limited budget and insufficient human resource to address the conditions, Ministry of health has resolved to use mental illness patients on treatment but at recovery stage, to support fellow patients especially those in initial stages of receiving treatment to help them cope with condition, overcome self denial, stigma and to settle back in their community without any difficulties.
While officially launching this program dubbed Brain again the head of mental health division in the Ministry of Health Dr. Sheila Ndyanabangi, said that they discovered that people who can best talk to families, communities and patients about mental illness are those who went through the same condition and recovered thus drawing a menu for this project.
“many of the people they help are those who have suffered from serious depression, madness because people who get minor cases are treated in out patient, they recover easily and sometimes these illness don’t come back. However people who need admission it’s so hard for them to integrate themselves in the community since some of their families reject them but these peers can go and talk to the families and explain their usefulness” said Sheila
“at times these patients have questions which they might want to ask about dealing with their lives but can’t ask them to professionals because of fear but it’s easy to communicate to their fellow patients” she added
Ndyanabangi says that for the period they have piloted this program from January 2015 to April this year a lot has been achieved in addressing mental illness since staff are no longer overwhelmed by work, operational costs have reduced especially in terms of admission of patients and stigmatization has tremendously reduced amongst family members hence appealing to mental referral hospitals, donors to mobilize resources so as to maintain this program and to give some allowances to the peer services workers so as to keep them highly motivated.
Meanwhile the patients we spoke to who counsel their fellow identified stigmatization, self denial, high costs of their medication and lack of support from families as some of the major challenges deter quick recovery. Adding that through this program of brain gain they were able to overcome the above.
Through this concluded pilot program which was supported by East London Link has seen a recovery college set up at Butabika hospital and in all other referral mental hospitals in Masaka, Mbale, Gulu, fortportal and Butabikka to train peer support workers.
It is also important to note that Butabika mental referral hospital as of now is burdened with over admitted 800 patients as opposed to the 500 patients that it was planned for which situation doesn’t differ much from the other referral hospitals.