Helping families gain an understanding of mental illness
August 15, 2018
The YouBelong team travelled to a village in the Wakiso district in Uganda to meet “Lucky’s” mother, who shifted away from her husband and children to take care of her 32 year-old daughter, diagnosed with chronic psychosis in 2000.
Lucky was referred to us by the ward sister in charge at Butabika hospital. Lucky had spent four months in the hospital and was now ready for discharge. YouBelong workers visited Lucky’s mother, pre-discharge, to see how Lucky could be supported when she was returned home for ongoing care.
We were told that when “Lucky” was 14 years old, she presented with behaviors that her family considered unusual. They said that she started wandering away from home, displaying uncoordinated speech, refusing to eat, working tirelessly, and having sleepless nights. Her family did not understand what was happening and sought help from a general hospital. She was admitted to the psychiatric unit and was diagnosed with psychosis.
She was released from the general hospital after one month. Following this release, she had several relapses and admissions to Butabika hospital. Lucky’s father grew weary of caring for her and started blaming Lucky’s mother for his daughter’s illness and then withdrew any further support. “She is not my daughter; we do not have mental illness in my family. I do not want anything to do with her” her husband once told his wife.
Her mother used Lucky’s time at Butabika hospital as an opportunity to have some respite from the stress of single-handedly taking care of her daughter for quite some time.
It is with this background that the YouBelong team is working with “Lucky’s” mother to explore how Lucky can be supported in her recovery, by family members. Also, we want to see how we can help the extended family gain an understanding of mental illness, its causes, and its treatment, and to counsel against blaming different sides of the family, for the mental illness of a family member.