14 million mentally ill, many in prolonged grief

“Grief is such a difficult one. Thanks for sharing this article,” commented Guardian Lane in reaction to my blog post titled: “Tears of an orphan,”  which I shared on Linkedln with the following introduction:

“Coping with grief sometimes includes being able to talk about it or to write about it. And so I write. Often overcoming grief takes a really long time; and even then, it is foolhardy to think that we can overcome it 100 percent. It doesn’t help when as one grieves one is thrown curve balls of unexpected horrors. When this happens, it is important that one has an anchor or anchors – friends, family, faith, great legal team – that assure a life line or life lines to steady one and not allow one to be washed away by the storm. So, while I am doing battle with devastating and traumatizing events post my father’s death, I consider myself lucky. Lucky that I have friends, family and faith that are the wind beneath my wind.”

Norah Owaraga on LinkedIn

According to its LinkedIn profile, Guardian Lane is:

“A children’s mental health platform that is innovating how children access grief counseling. Children watch, create, and share creative grief projects together, creating their own social healing network. Featured counselors are also available for 1:1 tele-counseling sessions. Starting with bereavement counseling, we will soon introduce videos + services for children affected by divorce, bullying, military separation and foster care.”

Guardian Lane LinkedIn profile

In our country in which the services offered by Guardian Lane are rare if at all, this has me reflecting on the lived realities behind the disturbing screaming media headlines recently heralding the sad news of how a Ministry of Health report surmised that 14 million Ugandans are mentally sick; and that the number of mentally sick Ugandans could actually be higher. I have a feeling that many of us in Uganda who are likely afflicted with mental illness didn’t think us included among the 14 million.

You know, for example, the hundreds of Ugandans who may be experiencing prolonged grief after loosing our loved ones because the pandemic – our loved ones died because they got infected and or though not infected, they were unable to access medical care. Yes, because of the pandemic, we couldn’t get closure through traditional burial norms and practices. We were expected to be understanding that there is a pandemic and sack it up.

Worse still, for some of us, as we worked through our grief to get closure – we were hit by fraudsters tarnishing the legacies of our loved ones and are attempting to take away from us our inheritance. Now, instead of working towards finding peace we are pushed into “prolonged grief disorder”, which medical experts recognise as a mental health condition. Our tormentors have pushed us into a state of mind in which we are prone to anxiety attacks, chronic fatigue, depression and the like.

What is the more disturbing in the case of Uganda, is that it is likely that the 14 million recognised as with mental ill-health don’t include those afflicted with prolonged grief disorder. Sincerely, how would we know, when our population of 40 million people is served by only 30 psychiatrists?

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