Feeling understood: the first step towards a new life

Christine is a 57-year-old peasant farmer from Otumpili in the Agago District of Uganda. A mother of seven, she went from being a hard-working woman able to tend to her family and farm to experiencing depression and alcohol addiction, and eventually attempting suicide.

Christine’s struggle with mental health began at home where she was subjected to domestic violence. Her husband provided no support in running the household or family business and sold their harvest income to buy alcohol. The stress caused by his drinking habit and abuse caused Christine to start drinking as well, and she began to feel hopeless and depressed. People in the community started stigmatizing her and the family’s land was taken by clan members.

Through Healthy Minds, Good Lives, a project organized by our partner Network for Africa and its local partner BNUU, Christine began participating in community education sessions. A few weeks later, she turned up in a state of physical and mental distress at Adilang Health Centre III where BNUU collaborates with health workers who provided Christine with medication and counseling.

BNUU’s counselor and psychiatric nurse followed up with Christine at home to ensure she was taking her medication and to offer one-on-one and couples counseling. The village health team trained by BNUU also invited her husband to individual counseling sessions which he attended.

The mental health support services provided Christine with coping mechanisms such as breathing relaxation techniques and encouraged her to share her challenges with people she trusts. After four months, Christine’s mental state had improved and she was able to stop taking the medication while continuing with counseling. She reunited with her husband and they have remained together.

Looking back at when she first started attending the community education sessions, Christine remembers how “they were describing exactly what I was going through.” Feeling understood and welcomed helped Christine take the first step on her recovery journey.