How one Ugandan is tackling the African mental health myth head on2 minute read

Liz Kakooza is a communications professional and serial entrepreneur, with a little over six years experience working for different public and private sector organizations that range from energy to financial services. She recently left the corporate world to venture into nonprofits and started The Tumaini Foundation to tackle mental health challenges on the continent after experiencing a personal ordeal battling depression. She loves to write and uses 3rdculturechic.com to discuss mental health challenges. She believes it is through sharing stories such as her own that we will be able to #ChangeTheConversation around #MentalHealth.

Liz is passionate about creating sustainable change on the African continent and believes in empowering people on the continent to create their own transformative change by creating African solutions to African problems. She was recently selected as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper and she is a YELP Fellow with the LéO Africa Institute and a 2017 YALI Fellow.

What is the greatest myth about mental health and addiction on the continent?
[Particularly] in Uganda, the idea that mental health and addiction issues are caused or brought on by cultural or spiritual influences. This, of course, is completely untrue, because just like malaria or cancer, mental health issues too have biological or scientific explanations behind them. Because of this myth, it means that people living with mental health issues do not receive the necessary help for their conditions, it means that their families, caretakers and many times themselves refer to traditional healers, spiritual leaders, et cetera for help, as opposed to receiving proper treatment for their conditions. This also fuels the stigma around mental health as African communities have always castigated people that they believe suffer from some sort of “spiritual” issue.

What is the antidote to the stigma that mental health has in Uganda?

The antidote to mental health issues in Uganda and the African continent at large is awareness. Intensive awareness initiatives supported by institutions and government is the first step to addressing the stigma around mental health in Uganda. Going down to [the grassroots] level and helping people understand what mental health really is, what the different causes could be, and helping them also understand that there is treatment or help for the numerous mental health issues out there. Helping families understand that they do not have to suffer in silence… is the work we aim to do through The Tumaini Foundation.

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