The global south is littered with what the British might call “dead parrots,” (referring to the Monty Python sketch about the Norwegian Blue parrot that was “an ex-parrot”).
These dead parrots are the shells of half-built or crumbling edifices that were planned as schools, clinics or the headquarters of charities. Someone, somewhere in the global north once had a grand vision that failed to stand the test of time and funding. All that is left is often a rusting mental sign outside a dusty compound.
Network for Africa has chosen to go another way. We are not using your donations to construct buildings. Instead, we try to help existing local charities and government institutions to serve their communities. We supplement their efforts with training, skills and resources. It makes more financial sense to support the mental health professionals in an African village than it does to start from scratch. It is also less patronising and, dare we say it, less imperialistic. It’s their country, after all.
Mental Health Support in Uganda
In Uganda, our team works at rural government clinics, giving counselling to people who are suffering from depression, anxiety or more serious mental illnesses or have been told they have epilepsy. They desperately need to know the future is not as bleak as they might as first think. Yet, the local health professionals are overworked and haven’t the time or skills to counsel patients as they come to terms with their medical status. Our counsellors know how to show patients that they have options and that there is hope. They can make sure people know how and when to take their medicine, whether it is for psychosis or epilepsy. And they check up on patients and care-givers in the weeks and months ahead.
Mental Health Support in Sierra Leone
In Sierra Leone, we work hand in hand with the district mental health nurse, helping to run community mental health education sessions and clinics, countering suspicion and stigma. We have given moral support to local professionals as they lobby the authorities for more and better medication and resources like timely blood tests for their patients. As a result of our involvement, children with epilepsy are able to attend school, rather than being hidden at home by their parents.
Our local partner, the Conforti team in Port Loko, will always be a better messenger than strangers imported from the global north. Conforti’s social workers are trusted, and for this reason the Ministry of Health and Sanitation asks them to educate local people about diseases (such as Covid and anthrax), encouraging anyone with symptoms to go to their nearest health clinic.
Our team works with five rural government health clinics, ensuring that patients are treated with respect and sensitivity. As a result, the community is more willing to attend clinics and to be tested because there is less stigma attaching to illness. All known cases of anthrax in the area were identified, treated and have recovered. As people witnessed this, they become less resistant to attending clinics for other ailments and conditions.
We thank our partners in Uganda, Sierra Leone and Rwanda for their leadership and commitment, and we thank our donors for making this work possible. Please click on the button below to support Network for Africa. Thank you.SUPPORTING MENTAL HEALTH IN UGANDA, SIERRA LEONE & RWANDA