Stories of Hope

Support for families amid the coronavirus pandemic

April 02, 2020

YB senior social worker supporting a family member on phone

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Ugandans just like people in other countries have been asked to socially distance themselves and restrict their movements. This has created unique challenges for the families and the YouBelongHome team in implementing the pre and post discharge interventions. And while the YouBelong bus can cope with the roads and terrain in getting to villages in normal conditions, now we have to rely on accessing families by phone only. The emotional distress among people suffering from severe mental illness and their family members is immense in this crisis time. So many people worry about becoming infected with coronavirus, how to access essential mental health medication given that public transport is suspended and they cannot get to the hospital or health centre, and they worry about how to survive and pay for food, since many income generating activities are also suspended in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID19.

Our main concern has been how our service users and their families can still get the psycho social support they need amidst this crisis. We are acutely aware that families must be supported and given hope in this high stress time. We have developed a new approach to support them; a crisis care phone support intervention. Many people have mobile phones, and if they haven’t we contact a neighbor, or village elder to assist. We innovatively adapted our regular phone support program with extra skills to deliver interventions on phone calls and support families who might experience barriers to accessing information, care and support. This is a relief to many families with whom we work. We are able to respond to their arising needs for emotional support and reduce their level of anxieties.  We are constantly working with them to deal with issues pertaining to their recovery; addressing issues of access to medication, their anxieties, sense of hopelessness and fear, in order to ensure that mental health needs are a key part of the health care system focus on curbing the spread of coronavirus. We work with them to help them gain more confidence by discussing with them coping techniques during this time of crisis. We also hope that the situation will normalize as soon as possible, so that we can continue with much needed support for families affected by mental illness post the coronavirus pandemic