Since March, the Dr Ambrosoli Memorial Hospital in Kalongo has been operating a mental health clinic equipped with specialized medical personnel consisting of a psychiatrist and two psychiatric nurses. The clinic is part of the project "AID 012590/90/0 - You are not alone - inclusive health for the prevention and treatment of visual, motor and mental disabilities" funded by AICS - Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development and implemented by Ambrosoli Foundation O.N.L.U.S. together with CBM Italy. A concrete and tangible response to the health and social scourge affecting the African continent.
Northern Uganda was the territory of conflict in a ferocious civil war that lasted more than 20 years, during which the population suffered unimaginable violence, with heavy consequences on the prevalence of mental disorders in the region. In particular, the district of Agago is the 5th in the country for the number of attempted suicides. Furthermore, the pandemic has further exacerbated the need for psychiatric assistance and mental health support, in fact, in 2019-2020 hospitalizations for attempted suicide increased by 279% compared to the previous year. Before the start of the project funded by AICS, the DAMHK and the District of Agago did not have qualified figures for psychiatric assistance, essential for the follow-up and support of attempted suicides.
To respond to this emergency, one of the objectives of the project aims to integrate mental health into the basic services offered by the hospital, train health professionals and hire specialized psychiatric personnel, strengthen suicide prevention services.
The mental health clinic aims to offer specialized care to patients of Dr Ambrosoli Memorial Hospital, integrating mental health into all basic services.
The mental health clinic is supported by a counselling desk dedicated to mothers and families of people with disabilities, to provide concrete support to families who face numerous problems related to stigma, poverty and the lack of adequate support from the institutions.
In the first two months of activity, 114 patients used the services of the mental health clinic. While the families supported and assisted by the counselling desk educator were 25.
Among the first patients who turned to the mental health clinic is Simon: a 22-year-old boy from the Agago district. Before that he was a brilliant child, capable in school, he learned English, which can't be taken for granted.
At 19 years old, he began to hear voices, answer them and finally speak to himself, a little inappropriately, chanting words that seemed to him assonant, perhaps in rhyme. Then sometimes get agitated, squirm, feel a little trapped, and try to escape. Now, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia or an undefined form of psychosis, a heavy diagnosis everywhere, but particularly in a country like Uganda, where psychiatric pathology is not known or understood by everyone, where the most common reaction to this type of disease is to believe that they are the result of a curse or witchcraft and the most immediate way for parents to deal with them is to contain the patient by tying him with ropes.
Simon was admitted to Kalongo Hospital at the right time. In fact, a team of nurses trained in the field of psychiatry also arrived with him. Simon has therefore found qualified personnel in Kalongo to give a name to his illness, to think of strategies for treating it and to explain it to family members so that it is understood.
The hope is that the project can grow and Simon and other patients in the future can receive increasingly targeted care.