Rahab was confined and chained for more than 10 years in rural Uganda. With treatment provided by trained psychiatric staff supported by Jamie’s Fund, she is returning to a normal life. There are many more like Rahab.
Jamie’s Fund was established in 2013 in memory of Jamie Devaney who died aged four. To read Jamie’s story click here.
In low income countries like Uganda, the government health services struggle to meet the needs of many of their people, and this is especially so in the case of those with severe and enduring mental ill health (such as psychosis, bipolar mood disorder and severe depression) and epilepsy. It is estimated that up to 90% of those with a mental illness do not get the treatment they need. Non-government hospitals and health centres often play a vital role in filling the gaps; these are usually part of a network of Private Not-for-Profit (PNFP) faith-based health facilities, serving the needs of the local rural or urban community.
Jamie’s Fund has been active in Uganda since 2012, supporting Ugandan staff and services to deliver mental healthcare to those in need. We worked initially with Kisiizi hospital in the rural southwest, to support the good work they were already doing in mental health. By 2016 we were helping two more hospitals in the region, Bwindi Community Hospital and Kagando Hospital, to grow their community mental health care.
In 2018, we funded Ugandan tutors to deliver training as trainers in mhGAP* for 22 mental health staff from hospitals in many different parts of the country. This has enabled them to train 223 non-specialist colleagues to identify and treat mental ill health. We also visited 9 more hospitals, 7 of whom have become active partners.
In 2019, we visited 27 hospitals across the country, 17 of which were new to us. Almost all of them recognised the need to do more to relieve the burden of mental ill health in their communities. We also sponsored a professional development workshop for the mental health staff. For some, this was the first development they had had since they qualified, over 10 years ago.
We also started to sponsor three nurses from hospitals that have no mental health trained staff to train as psychiatric clinical officers. This take two or three years depending on their previous experience. Psychiatric clinical officers are a fairly senior level who normally lead the development of services in a hospital.
In early 2020, we funded another Train the Trainers workshop for mhGAP, attended by 18 staff from another 9 hospitals. As the Covid restrictions are eased, they will be able to roll out the training in their localities.
While carrying out these activities, Jamie’s Fund has collaborated with the national organisations overseeing the PNFP hospitals and health centres, and with the Government Ministry of Health Mental Health Lead, making sure that what we do is in line with Ugandan priorities.
We are seeing how mental health is beginning to move up the agenda, nationally and globally. As a small charity, we have been able to make relatively small amounts of funding make a big difference, by sponsoring training, transport and communications to enable mental health services to go to where the need is. Supporting Ugandan staff and trainers to deliver care in the community is at the heart of what we do.
Many of our planned activities have had to be paused this year, due to the Covid 19 restrictions in both our countries. However, we continue to work in the background, keeping in touch with our colleagues, and making plans to restart training and other activities just as soon as conditions allow.
If you would like to help us transform lives in Uganda, please consider whether you could make a regular donation, however large or small, to Jamie’s Fund. Could you remember us in your will, leaving a legacy of hope in the despair of hidden mental ill health? We are also asking businesses and other organisations to sponsor parts of our work.
Linda Shuttleworth, Trustee, Jamie’s Fund.
*mhGap is a World Health Organisation programme designed to give non-mental health clinicians, particularly in low and middle income countries, a good understanding of mental ill health so that they can diagnose and treat many of the more straightforward conditions.