Stories of Hope

Empowering families to support those with mental illness

June 14, 2018

YouBelong empowers families with a range of skills including communication, problem solving, and crisis management skills to enable family members to focus on the strengths of the member who is mentally ill and support him or her to live a productive and fulfilling life.

“Namuli” is a 30 year old female from the Wakiso district of Uganda who was diagnosed with psychosis at Butabika mental hospital twelve years ago. Namuli becomes irritable, talkative, is unable to groom herself, and often wanders away from home when she relapses. While on medication, she struggles with side effects including dizziness and general body weakness.

Namuli had spent three months in the hospital during her ninth admission without receiving any visitors from home when the YouBelongHOME team started working with her.

YouBelong staff (right) talking with Namuli’s mother and advising against the use of negative/stigmatizing language while speaking to her daughter.

We contacted Namuli’s mother (we found her cell phone contact in the hospital records), and scheduled a visit to carry out a family assessment. During the pre-discharge visit, we educated Namuli’s mother about mental illness to help her appreciate the importance of Namuli returning home and support for her recovery.

The second pre-discharge session assessed Namuli’s mother’s readiness to receive Namuli before we could bring her back home. At discharge, the YouBelong team brought Namuli home and made arrangements with her family for the team to visit.

During a post-discharge visit, Namuli’s mother asked with a look of resignation on her face “If Namuli’s father cannot help the siblings that are well, what should we do with Namuli who cannot comprehend nor do anything productive for herself?” We realized that Namuli’s mother was always pessimistic when she talked about her daughter’s recovery. She focused on limitations rather than abilities. This constantly discouraged Namuli from realizing her potential.

This case is not an isolated one. We have worked with families where a person living with mental illness is not given an opportunity to live a productive life and/or participate in family activities as do other members of the family. They are not involved in decision making even in areas that directly concern them. We have observed that some of these individuals are considered undeserving or have been looked at as incapable of making a difference in their lives. YouBelongHOME works with such families to help them support their family member upon return from the hospital. We empower them with a range of skills including communication, problem solving, and crisis management skills; to enable family members to focus on the strengths of the member who is mentally ill and support him or her to live a productive and fulfilling life.