Africa-Press – Rwanda. Rwanda will join the rest of the world to create awareness and mobilize efforts to support mental health on World Mental Health Day that is marked every year on October 10. According to Never Again Rwanda (NAR), Mental Health in the Rwandan context could be hollowed by multiple factors, including their history.
According to Debby Karemera, Peacebuilding Team Leader and Psychotherapist at NAR, these are a few signs to look out for to know if someone is experiencing Mental Health illness;
Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety
Sudden change in moods
Loss of hope
An extreme change in eating patterns (too much or too little) or sleeping patterns.
According to the “societal healing in Rwanda: mapping of actors and approaches” study conducted under the auspices of the program, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi left a breach in the country’s unity, affecting even the post-genocide generation due to intergenerational traumas passed down from the unhealed generation even after 27 years since the atrocity. In 2015, the organization in collaboration with Interpeace, through the support from SIDA responded by launching the Societal Healing and Participatory Governance for Peace in Rwanda program.
The societal healing axis was implemented in 14 Districts; Gasabo, Nyarugenge, Gicumbi, Rulindo, Musanze, Nyagatare, Rutisiro, Karongi, Ngoma, Huye, Rubavu, Nyabihu, Muhanga and Gisagara. Safe places for peace were formed in each of these districts and they were made up of community members (men and women), as well as youth (boys and girls) from various backgrounds. They met once a month to talk about their trauma, pain and delicate experiences in order to start their healing journey and create empathy and mutual understanding.
The program lasted six years, leaving hearts relieved, greater psychological resilience, trust, tolerance, hope for the future, forgiveness, and lessened desires of vengeance as well as feelings of self-loathing among those who were fortunate enough to take part.
NAR, through the different interventions aimed at contributing towards societal healing, observed that majority of community members have limited information on mental health issues, availability and accessibility of the mental health services and this was worsened by the unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic, which revived existing wounds and caused new ones among the youth and adult community members.
Since the COVID-19 epidemic contributed to an upsurge in mental health problems among Rwandans, NAR, through the support of the Swiss Development Cooperation collaborated with various partners at the district level to strengthen mental health systems. NAR worked with Peace Agents and placed professional psychotherapists in various sectors in the country. NAR also included individual therapy after learning from previous experiences that it was difficult for some participants to heal their wounds or tell their stories within a bigger group.
NAR established an online wellness portal (https://wellness.neveragainrwanda.org/), where visitors can anonymously check their anxiety or depression level, listen to soothing content, and request an appointment with one of their expert psychotherapists. Everyone can use the portal. NAR intends to construct a physical.
Karemera underlined the importance of raising mental health awareness in Rwandan society. “Rwandans should understand that mental illness is not a sign of weakness. We advise them to seek treatment because the effects are temporary,” she said. “Not all people with mental illnesses are violent or unpredictable; children, adolescents, and adults can all have mental health problems.” There is hope for people with mental health problems so it is okay to get help!” she added.