We hope to visit Uganda in 2014 to meet communities who have developed innovative services which support those who experience psychological distress. Our aim is to promote the psychological and emotional wellbeing of people in Uganda through amplifying the voices of these inspirational communities, by collecting and publishing their stories and contributing to the development of mental health services in the country. We need your help in raising £3000 to make this dream a reality. For more information about the trip, please read on.
Who we are
Amy and Amy (trainee clinical psychologists)
We are two trainees from the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Lancaster University, handily both called Amy! We work in mental health services all around the North West of the UK, as well as studying full time at Lancaster University. With the enthusiastic support of our tutor and Uganda's number one fan, Dr Jen Davies, we are writing to you to ask for your help.
What we need help with
Recently, we have started to establish links with individuals who have used mental health services in Uganda. These inspirational people in different parts of the country have recognised the limitations in mental health services in Uganda, and have worked together to do something differently. They have created innovative peer support services for those who experience emotional distress. These services are based on truly meaningful human relationships with others, providing a listening ear and the opportunity for those who visit the services to learn skills and live healthy lives. Recognising the need for 'love, community and connection', the peer support workers have shown us that we have so much to learn from their approaches.
Jen with members of 'Heartsounds', an inspirational peer support network
However, their resources and the resources of other services in the country are limited. We want to use our training to amplify the voices of communities and peer support workers and promote their inspirational work across the country, a country where, like in the UK, there has often been a tendency to try to suppress or restrain emotional distress.
Living in a country that has faced and continues to face so many challenges, most obviously the history of civil war and conflict, Ugandans are likely to have experiences unlike the majority of people in the UK. For example, in the North of Uganda, many have witnessed, or indeed experienced, human rights violations such as mass murder, child abduction, child labour and sex slavery. Such traumatic events are likely to have a considerable impact on psychological and emotional wellbeing. The services necessary to meet such needs, however, are limited. In Uganda there are 4 government employed clinical psychologists in the whole country. One psychiatric hospital there houses 700 people with mental health difficulties; their families provide them with food and basic care. In the UK there are 18,933 registered psychologists; at least 9,500 of whom are clinical psychologists.
How can we help
Jen (our tutor) has previously visited Uganda and has started to make links with these inspirational communities. We have been invited to visit the country and contribute in whatever way is most meaningful to the services and people there. In planning our trip, we have two broad aims. Firstly, we hope to meet with communities and peer support workers and collect their stories. We want to publish these stories, so that people in both Uganda and the UK can learn from their innovative ways of working. You can hear Hope's story, an inspiring woman who shared her experiences with Jen on her previous visit, here: http://youtu.be/z6UCwbY5laQ.
We also hope to forge links with the Clinical Psychology training course in Uganda, and facilitate training with the students that encourages the inclusion of 'experts by experience'. 'Experts by experience' are people who have lived experience of psychological distress and may well have accessed mental health services. We have been fortunate in our training to have the immense benefits of the involvement of 'experts by experience' in all that we do; on placements in services, in teaching and in conducting our research. Until recently, the Ugandan course has been primarily theoretical, with little opportunity for psychologists to meet and talk with people who have had experience of accessing services.
These are our short-term goals. We hope that this two-week trip will be the start of a meaningful mutual relationship, in which 'experts by experience' and professionals from Uganda and Lancaster work together to amplify those voices that are currently less heard and from which we can all learn so much.
Christina, our representative from the Doctorate, receiving a Ugandan Flag from JJ Paul
How can you help
We hope that we will be able to secure longer term grants based on the successes from our trip, but for now - we need to get there! We need £4500 but we can't do that alone, so we are appealing to you, the communities around us. We are looking for £3000 to cover our flights, travel around the country and inoculations. If you think this is a valuable project, please give whatever you can. Any amount will be so gratefully received, and will help us get one step closer to making our trip a reality. For those able to give £5 or more, we want to acknowledge your generosity by providing rewards. These range from a personal thank you on our course Facebook page, to a tote bag with the logo that represents our venture, to an acknowledgement in published works that come out of the trip (e.g. a published book of stories collected).
For all of you who have made it this far in your reading - thank you, we hope you have found our story interesting. We would like to end on a message from Joseph Atukunda, Executive National Coordinator of Heartsounds Uganda:
"This visit is important to us service users in Uganda and to the ones in the UK and will certainly lead to improvement of mental health services in both our countries. We therefore call on all those able to support this visit to do so with all your might knowing that your support is for a very good cause and is really needed" Joseph Atukunda, Heartsounds