• Banner photo credit: Simone Fior

PROGRAMME: Community Mental Health

Location: Across Agago District, northern Uganda

  • Ongoing

BNUU is working in partnership with Network for Africa to provide mental health services to people with mental illness/epilepsy in Patongo and Kalongo Town Councils, Omot, Lamiyo, Lira Palwo, Paimol, Wol, Lukole, Adilang and Lapono sub-counties in Agago District, northern Uganda. Reaching out to schools and wider community members, it raises awareness about mental illness, works with local health centres to provide monthly mental health clinics, as well as setting up and supporting self-help groups with training in savings and loans, including setting up dedicated savings funds to ensure regular supplies of medication (drug banks), financial literacy, human rights and advocacy.

Photo credit for gallery images: Simone Fior

In December 2017, in partnership with Network for Africa and Comic Relief, BNUU began its community mental health programme in Kalongo town Council, Wol, Paimol and Lukole sub-counties in Agago District, Northern Uganda, providing mental health services where there previously had been none. It strengthened mental health provision by working with, and developing, existing health structures. Directly benefiting 3,466 people (1,824 with mental disorders and 1,642 of their carers) the project raised awareness of mental illness to reduce stigma and encourage people to come forward for treatment; trained health workers in how to recognise, diagnose and refer people with mental illness; held mental health clinics with the support of health workers; offered counselling to those with less severe mental disorders; and built the capacity of people with mental illness/epilepsy to improve their lives through advocacy. It also included an extensive training programme for project staff, village health teams, local councillors, health centre staff, and key community leaders – building knowledge, raising awareness and ensuring long-term sustainability. The programme followed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Mental Health Gap Action Plan (mhGAP) for mental health provision in low-resource settings. In addition, beneficiaries formed self-help groups in order to advocate for better mental health provision, raise the profile of mental illness and work together to start income generating activities.

Photo credit : Simone Fior

In March 2022, following a new partnership with Network for Africa and Fondation d’Harcourt, BNUU was able to expand this vital work by taking it to two new sub-counties in northern Uganda. The Wic ma yot kwo maber (Healthy Minds, Good Lives) programme is providing mental health services in Lapono and Adilang sub-counties. Reaching 2,375 people with mental illness/epilepsy and their caregivers, BNUU is providing monthly mental health clinics including mental health education talks; training in financial literacy, savings and loans, human rights, and advocacy; community awareness-raising awareness. The project is reducing stigma, increasing understanding of mental illness and empowering sufferers so they can take control of their lives.

Sarah’s story

If BNUU had not come, I don’t know what I would have done because I’ve been going to different hospitals for about five years and there wasn’t any medication given to me because they could not diagnose anything on me. At least when diagnosis is done, you’re able to get the right medication for the symptoms of something you feel. But when I came to BNUU, they were able to diagnose me with depression, and I was able to get medication. Right now, I am free. I’ve been withdrawn from treatment for over two years now.

Jane’s story

Before BNUU’s intervention, I had a family member who was battling epilepsy and because of the challenges and the care burden that I had, I developed depression. We had no hope, and we were quite sure that all of us, we were going to die.”