Mental Health and Substance Abuse: A Growing Connection

An Interview with Nyati Annette Queenie, CEO, LivingPlus Haven Uganda, STC Volunteer

1. Could you tell us about your research in Mental Health?

I titled it “Substance-related hospitalisation burden and patterns: Mental Unit, Arua Regional Referral Hospital, North Western Uganda.” Globally, substance abuse is a growing cause of mental illness and a leading cause of hospitalisation among psychiatric patients. This region is known for growing and the use of substances such as khat and I thought doing research that combines mental health and substance abuse would be a starting point of engagement on what can be done concerning both issues.

2. With the information gathered, what can individual people do to better educate themselves or to help?

The information is valuable to children, adolescents, parents and community and Government leaders. First to appreciate the magnitude. It educates all individuals to avoid self-inflicted harm such as the use of substances and promotes a lifestyle that prevents mental illness.

3. Are there any stigmas surrounding mental health that exist in your community? If so, what are they?

Yes, first how persons with mental illness are called “mad people”. The traditional myths surrounding mental illness compound isolation, maltreatment of mentally sick persons.

4. What connection do you find there to be between mental health and volunteering?

Persons mentally sick need the care and support of others and this is how volunteering becomes key in the journey of healing and recovery. However, capacity is required which many caregivers and persons willing to provide this support lack. Understanding the need for volunteers, our plan is to mobilise volunteers, train them and also start some care support to care givers of clients in the mental unit. Volunteers are key in follow up because the research has revealed there are cases of relapses.

5. What are the next steps in your research and your mission to create awareness on this topic?

We, under the umbrella of an indigenous organisation Livingplus Haven Uganda collaborated with the regional hospital and held an awareness meeting with key decision makers in the city and neighbouring districts, our outreaches to the schools will continue and we are starting work balance session to support employees among others. our mission is to break the silence on mental health and support persons affected to get help.

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