On 10th of October 2023, as the International Mental Health Day is commemorated, it is evident that in Rwanda and across the globe, there are individuals who face challenges related to mental health. This includes those who experience mental illnesses and those who work towards destigmatizing such conditions, advocating for the rights of people with mental health issues, and providing support. Some have urged Rwandans and the world at large to recognize the value of those with mental health conditions because mental well-being is crucial and can be protected.
This is what has been done by various individuals and organizations with different roles in assisting those with mental health challenges.
Samuel Munderere, the CEO of Solid Minds Counseling Clinic, which helps those with mental health conditions, has stated that they are committed to providing therapy with the aim of transforming the mindset of those affected by mental health issues, as if they are not people with potential. He acknowledges that those struggling with mental health issues often face significant stigma.
He said: “The reason we have taken action to change a negative mindset about people with mental health conditions is that we believe the mindset plays a significant role in determining whether a person experiencing mental health issues can be helped. Rather than being isolated or stigmatized, people with mental health conditions should be supported and empowered to improve their lives. The message we give is that individuals with mental health conditions should not be treated as if they are not valuable.”
Claver Haragirimana, the Leader of the Organization for the Protection of the Rights of Individuals with Mental Health Conditions (OPROMAMER), expressed that as someone who has experienced the challenges of mental health, he is well aware of the discrimination faced by individuals with mental health conditions.
He said: “I am one of the people who have experienced mental health issues, and I am actively involved in advocating for the rights of individuals with mental health conditions because I understand the suffering that individuals with mental health challenges go through. I have personally faced these challenges, and I can testify that it is a difficult journey. I am married, and my wife has been supportive throughout. It hasn’t been an easy road, but we have come a long way. The rights of individuals with mental health challenges start with talking about their issues, and this should be done without discrimination. It may take a long time, but my friends will be given a voice, and they can expect to be understood, to achieve much in the next 10 years, because a person with mental health issues needs to hear and comprehend what is done to them.”
Claudia, a woman who has faced mental health challenges, acknowledges that issues related to mental health can be quite complex. However, she believes that the solution lies in providing mental health support and care, as it can have a significant impact.
She said: “Mental health issues are indeed quite complex, and we may not fully understand them at the moment. But I also believe that it’s important to acknowledge and address these issues. We need to work on building strong family relationships, reducing stigma, and providing mental health support. This can make a significant difference in the lives of those facing mental health challenges.”
Claudia emphasizes the importance of offering support and understanding to individuals with mental health issues, as this can greatly contribute to their well-being.
One of the students specializing in mental health issues related to mental health explains that people should not stigmatize or discriminate against those who have mental health issues. He believes that it’s essential to provide support and understanding to individuals with head injuries, as they deserve to be treated with respect and empathy.
She said: “In our society, when someone hears that a person has a mental health issues, they might start calling them names. But everyone has the potential to have a mental health issues; it’s not just for a specific group of people. That’s why we need to promote empathy and reduce stigma. Mental health issues can also be lead by stress within families or at school. People with mental health issues may also use mental health support to help them with their challenges, and it’s important to respect their needs.”
Samuel Niyomuremyi, CEO of the organization called Ubuzima Innovation Hub, continues to work on interventions within the healthcare system to address head injury-related issues and to provide solutions. They aim to tackle the challenges faced by individuals with head injuries and promote mental health.
He said: “In assisting individuals with head injuries to address their issues, we are providing solutions that include implementing strategies to combat mental health stigmatization. This includes sending messages on how to improve mental health and educating the public about the importance of mental health just like any other medical condition.”
Dr. Darius Gishoma, Division Manager of Mental Health Division at RBC, stresses that the Ministry of Health is committed to providing the necessary support for those with mental health problems. He also highlights the importance of raising awareness about mental health and the availability of mental health services. The aim is to extend mental health support services across the country and ensure that those with mental health issues receive appropriate care and treatment.
He said: “It’s a global day for people with mental health problems, which means we are calling on everyone. The issue of mental health is like a new challenge for the population, and the majority of these cases involve individuals under 25 years old. If we want to tackle this issue, we need to focus on it from the beginning, rather than waiting until someone has had a head injury for 25 years. The solution is to build mental health capacity in all healthcare institutions, using tools to address head injuries, as well as fostering mental health in a comprehensive way. We are investing significantly in providing mental health care.”
The statistics from the National Health Department (RBC) show that in Rwanda, people with mental health issues make up 13% of the population. The data also indicates that research reveals one in five individuals experience significant mental health challenges, emphasizing the pressing need for intervention.
By Carine Kayitesi