The 20-year-long rebellion in northern Uganda displaced more than two million people. More than half suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and up to 70 percent from clinical depression.
“People here don’t believe mental illness can be cured in hospitals or helped by modern medicine. They rely on traditional healers,” said Herbert Muyinda of Makerere University, Uganda. Those suffering from mental illness are often hidden away. Aunties and uncles will be trained and go into communities to find out about them and help lead them to treatment. "Traditionally, aunties and uncles play an important role in raising children. We want to create ‘mental health aunties and uncles’,” Muyinda told IPS. Muyinda wants to get the modern and traditional to work together and avoid conflicts. “We want to engage with traditional healers to help them manage their patients better. We’re not going to take their patients away.”
Mobile phones will also have an important role in reducing the stigma of mental illness. Text (SMS) messages can inform people and help those suffering from mental illness to be identified and receive some form of treatment. “We hope to have a number that people can message and then a Wayo-Nero can visit them,” he said.
Globally, close to 450 million people have mental health disorders, with more than 75 percent living in developing countries. Many are shut away or locked up. Few are ever treated. There simply isn’t enough money to meet the need in poor countries using the same approaches used in richer countries to treat mental illness