We hear first-hand about the ways our mental health work (being provided by Network for Africa and our Partners) makes a difference. These are the testimonies of participants in our current mental health projects in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda. They have all given their permission to share their testimonies on our website.
Rwanda – Testimonies from our Counselling Project for Survivors of the 1994 Genocide
A 26-year-old woman: I was only one month old when the genocide began, and in the chaos I was separated from my mother. When I was older, I searched for her, but when I found her, it was difficult to accept her as my parent, after so long apart. I spent years feeling hopeless, lonely, and unable to trust others. I slept only a few hours each night, and made several attempts at suicide. But since joining our counselling group, I’ve risen to become a Peer Support Counsellor. This responsibility has changed my life. Now, I like talking to people. I am happily married with a family of my own. I am optimistic and sleep well.
A 28-year-old man: My mother was killed during the genocide and I was left with my father, who soon remarried. I suffered from nightmares, intense anxiety, and the grief of losing my mother. Being part of the counselling group has helped me make friends and regain a sense of meaning in my life. My Peer Support Counsellor has visited me at home, helping me resolve the conflicts with my stepmother. With the counsellors’ support, I understand that anger and sorrow only hold me back. I’m now in a better mental state, capable of making the most of life. I’ve learned relaxation techniques that I use to improve my sleep and overcome nightmares. Before, I was lonely and had no friends. But now, in this counselling group, I feel loved and cared for my other people. I’ve learned that anger only damages my future and prevents me moving forward. And I’ve forgiven my stepmother. Now, I’m planning to get married and start a family of my own.
Sierra Leone – Testimonies from our Life-Changing Mental Health Support Project
A 51-year-old man: I lost my wife and four children during the Ebola crisis in 2014, and at first my relatives were sympathetic. Yet, I started to feel life was pointless. After a while, my uncle asked me for rent for the room I was occupying in his house, but I had no money. I had to go and live in a farm hut, earning my living by helping people to carry loads; people who knew me laughed at me and called me all sorts of names. I had very little hope, and thought that I would not survive. But one of my customers advised me to visit Kabantama and ask for a Conforti counsellor. I have spoken to this counsellor many times, and he’s encouraged me to begin to think positively. Now, I believe I can make it, despite my sad past. I’m part of a self-help group, and I’m an enthusiastic advocate for the establishment of a group savings scheme. I still struggle to make ends meet, but it’s different now because I feel supported and less stigmatised by my community.
A 45-year-old woman: I lost all my relatives during the war, including my four children and husband. They were accused of collaborating with government soldiers and they were gunned down before my eyes. When she first met the Conforti counsellor, she admitted she felt hopeless. But after I was counselled, I sat down and compared myself to the people around me who had lost arms and feet, and I saw that if they could continue to hope, then so could I. Now, I’m a member of the self help group and I sell pounded cassava. Whenever I hear about war happening in other place, I pray that Sierra Leone won’t have another war.
A 16-year-old child: I became an orphan in 2015 when I lost my parents to Ebola. I was an only child, so I went to live with my uncle. However, he’s unemployed and there’s no money, so I‘ve missed school for the last two years. The loss of my parents and my chance to be educated has made me sad. Thank goodness a social worker told me to go to see Conforti. Since meeting the counsellors, I feel much better and really hopeful. Talking to a female counsellor has made a difference in my life. I’m now in a self help group, and Conforti’s counsellors are encouraging my uncle to support me.
Uganda – Testimonies from our Community Mental Health Matters Project in Kalongo, Agago District
A 63-year-old man: I’ve been suffering from mental illness for about a year, with no treatment or proper care from my family. They kept me locked inside the house with no clothes, and I ate alone. I wasn’t able to take part in community life because of the fear I might destroy people’s property. Everything changed when one of the BNUU Mental Health Counsellors was doing a Community Education Session nearby. One of the Village Health Team told them about me. They enrolled me in their group and started treatment. After eight months, I started feeling better, and I was able to go out into the community again. I became part of my family once more. I’m continuing to see the counsellor to make sure I continue to make progress.
A 49-year-old woman: I’m a widow. I have four children of my own and I take care of three grandchildren from my daughter who died. There’s been a lot of grief in our family, a lot of loss. I’ve also got a chronic illness, and I had to stay in hospital for almost three months. I didn’t have any energy, I lost my appetite, and I couldn’t sleep. I was irritable and in pain, so I started avoiding other people. I was in a bad way, but then I heard about BNUU, and I decided to try their programme. They gave me psycho-education, counselling and home visits. They supported me as I worked my way through the grieving process. Through BNUU I’ve also connected to a new social network where we share ideas, and I’ve learned coping strategies. They’ve enriched my knowledge by teaching me about my human rights and how to advocate for what I need. Now, I’m enjoying leading a normal life, and I’ve got more energy. I’m not moody anymore, and people tell me I look happy. I’m proud to be the chairperson of our self help group.
Uganda – Testimonies from our Livelihood Support For People with Mental Health Issues, Agago District
A 44-year-old woman: In the past, I used to have mental problems; all the people in my area knew it. They kept away from me. One day at church I was told that there is an organisation that provides mental health services. I went to the hospital, got registered and was given medicine. Before I started using the medicine, I was guided on how to use it. I have improvement in my life because the mental illness used to disturb me and disrupt my work. I feel that there is great improvement, I have resumed my work at school and now I can stay among my fellow teachers. The staff visited me at home to remind me to take my drugs regularly. This has created a big impact in my life. Now that I have been receiving treatment, I will continue adhering to medication.
A woman (age unknown): My son, William, was often treated very badly by people, even attacked, because of his mental illness. I knew his condition was getting worse. But then (Network for Africa’s partner) Basic Needs staff told me to bring William to the hospital where they have medicine for him. I asked if they really thought William could recover, and they told me it was possible. After his treatment at the hospital, Basic Needs staff kept visiting him at our home. The medicine has enabled William to recover, he is fine. He is a real man and waiting to get married. The Basic Needs staff always treat him well. They refer to him as their friend. That’s why I say, if you have someone with mental illness you should be strong and have love, don’t discriminate and if you hear that someone has mental illness, tell them to go to Basic Needs. I thank the staff of Basic Needs.
A woman (age unknown): My 22-year-old my daughter had mental problems that were so serious, she had become a public spectacle. She had a terrible shock when someone in the market told her that her brother had just been killed in a traffic accident. It was so abrupt: She ran home, crying, and things started to get worse for her. She was disorganized, irritable, disappearing off into the bush. Sometimes she fought with me. I would have to follow her around wherever she went. She developed hatred for her child. Her husband would have to remove the baby from her. I took her to a doctor but there was no improvement. When Basic Needs came, I brought her to be registered, and she started getting treatment. The staff from Basic Needs regularly visited her from my home until her condition improved. Now she is fine, she is with her husband at her home and the child she used to hate so much, she now loves so much. This is what I can share with you. Thanks.
A selection of older testimonies from the beneficiaries of our Patongo Community Counselling project is available below as a PDF.