Jamie’s Legacy – Reflections by Jamie’s parents

As Jamie’s Fund draws to a close we have been reflecting on the wonderful way that Jamie’s life has touched so many others in the UK , Uganda and beyond. When Jamie died in 2011 our lives became unrecognisable, everything looked different and the sadness and pain was overwhelming. Yet even in our darkest hours we were certain that Jamie’s life had meaning beyond the four years that he was with us . We also knew that it was our job along with our friends in the UK and Uganda to figure out what this was and make sure his legacy was realised. People started to give money and we saw the potential for good things to come from establishing a small charity in Jamie’s name. We were supported by amazing people with greater knowledge and skills than us to set up Jamie’s Fund in 2013. Those people became trustees and advisors to Jamie’s Fund and have continued to this day, we will be forever grateful for their support.

The charity initially worked with Kisiizi Hospital to design and build the Ahumuza Mental Health Centre. The formal opening of the centre in 2017 was an incredibly joyful and yet poignant event. Joyful because it is a very special place with amazing people bringing hope and mental health care to many. Poignant because it was our first visit to Kisiizi since we had been there with Jamie. We were comforted and strengthened by the sensitivity and the warmth of the welcome we received from the people of Kisiizi. It was a very moving experience.

After reaching our initial fundraising target money still kept coming to us, often from unexpected generous donations and legacies but also from epic fundraising efforts. It was heartening to see so many people having been inspired by Jamie’s story and the work of the charity to do such challenging things for sponsorship money. From non-runners training for and completing half and full marathons to people afraid of heights abseiling down Halkyn church tower. We were buoyed emotionally and the charity buoyed financially by the efforts people made.

We had realised early on that our resources would have greatest impact by focusing on community based projects rather than just focusing on buildings. Our talented colleagues in Uganda worked with us to support individual mental health staff training as well as rolling out MHGap training across Uganda and also developing sensitisation training for village leaders. We began with a partnership with one hospital in South West Uganda and this has grown to a partnership with 25 hospitals across the whole of Uganda. Such reach and impact in Jamie’s memory is way beyond any hopes we had in our wildest dreams at the outset.

As a very small team, we always knew that we couldn’t continue indefinitely and that we needed to carefully choose a time to bring the work of Jamie’s Fund to a positive end. We made the very difficult decision to work towards closing the charity at the end of this year and were sad to have to let our partners in Uganda know as well as all our other supporters.

Our most recent trip to Uganda was incredibly uplifting and brought home the extent of which Jamie’s life has touched others. This includes the organisations we have encouraged and supported to develop mental health services, the individual mental health staff that we have supported with training and the people and communities that have directly and indirectly benefited from the mental health care provided by Jamie’s Fund’s partners.

During the first week of the visit we ran a professional development conference for thirty key mental health professionals that we have supported over the years. Their calibre and commitment was very striking and it was a very full and productive learning and networking week. Whilst there was sadness when we broke the news about Jamie’s Fund closing there was also much hope because within twenty four hours the group had rallied and made plans to set up their own organisation to ’Keep the mental health movement going’. We began to realise that our stepping away at this time was creating space for others who are now ready to step forward and take the work forward.

This theme continued during the second and third weeks of our trip when we made visits to hospitals and health centres that we have partnered. We were warmly welcomed and shown extensive progress. Time and time again we were thanked for the support and encouragement we had provided and reassured very firmly that the work will continue. Such commitment and enthusiasm confirmed to us that the time is indeed right for us to let go and make space for our very capable and enthusiastic Ugandan friends to take forward the work.

Jamie would have turned 16 this year and there’s not a day goes by where we don’t miss him and wish that he was still with us. This visit, however, was very special, it brought us to a new place of peace and acceptance. We now have the comfort of knowing that Jamie’s legacy has been fully realised and that countless people have been and will continue to be touched by his life, even if they don’t know his name.

We would like to sincerely thank everyone who has been involved over the years, none of this could have happened without your support. Having witnessed the progress of mental health care over the years and knowing the calibre of today’s practitioners and leaders, we are confident that mental health care in Uganda will continue to go from strength to strength. We look forward to seeing this happen because this certainly isn’t good bye. We look forward to visiting our friends in Uganda in the future and providing encouragement where we can.
Jamie’s Fund may close but Team Jamie is still very much around.

Jim and Avril Devaney, Jamie’s Parents
December 2023

Our latest visit to our partners.

Five of the Jamies Fund trustees headed for Uganda in mid-September for a Professional Development workshop for 30 Mental Health Staff from our partner hospitals across the country.  This was followed by visits to some of our partner hospital. Travel was much easier than it was early last year, when there were the Covid restrictions and requirements to follow. The atmosphere in Uganda generally seemed more buoyant too, and Kampala was bustling (unpleasantly so at times, in the choked traffic!).  For the first time since 2017, Avril, the mother of little Jamie who died, came with us, which touched the hearts of many people there. 

As trustees, we have been wrestling with the difficult decision of when to close the charity. Our involvement has grown from a partnership with one hospital, to a network of 25 hospitals and Health Centres. We knew that our support was making a significant difference. But as a small group in this corner of the UK, we could not keep the fundraising efforts here, and the support there, going for ever. 

We had always hoped that others would step up to take our places in the UK organisation, but that hasn’t happened. So we’ve been working to ensure that our partners had the opportunity to roll out training for staff and community leaders this year, and to strengthen their services. Also, the seven staff we sponsored to train as Psychiatric Clinical Officers will all have qualified by the end of 2023. It was time to talk of handing over to our friends and colleagues in Uganda. 

It felt important to be able to share this in person, and to be able to work it out together. It was emotional for all of us. What was really inspiring, was the way in which almost all our Ugandan colleagues responded with a commitment to continue to build on what had been started. Within 12 hours, the staff at the conference had put together a plan for a nationwide mental health network, to support each other and advocate for mental health care. 

At The Epicentre.

As we travelled west and east to meet the hospital managers and mental health staff in partner hospitals, that same commitment was repeated in various ways. At Kisiizi Hospital, where Jamie’s Fund  had begun, management asked, ‘What should the hospital pick up, as we plan our budgets?’ and Bwindi stated, ‘Mental health now has a big place in our day to day operations. The impact will continue.’ 

At a hospital near the equator, we met Village Health Team volunteers and recovering patients, who tell people in the villages that mental ill health can be treated. Elsewhere, a newly qualified psychiatric clinical officer took us to her first ever outreach clinic at a ‘nearby’ (it wasn’t!) Health Centre where over 20 people had turned up in the rain because they’d heard her announce the clinic and talk about mental health on local radio. At other hospitals, staff with the basic mental health training were evident in every department. 

Waiting at the clinic

Finally, the peer-led, volunteer-supported therapeutic community, The Epicentre, which had taken us by surprise last year, surprised us again. They now accommodate nearly 50 people recovering from mental ill health and addictions. They have moved out from the rented building and have built on a nearby piece of land, with space for exercise and activities. It feels peaceful and safe. When people are able, they help out by taking up a role in the centre, such as cook, or receptionist, and contribute a little towards their keep if they can. The Archbishop and the District Health Officer, as well as the nearby hospital, support them with donations of food, funds, transport and medication. Everyone – including the Archbishop – is turning out for a parade through town on World Mental Health Day to challenge stigma and promote a positive message about mental health!

Once we have met all our existing commitments, the charity will formally close at the end of 2023, but I don’t think we will be allowed to lose touch with our friends and former partners in Uganda … nor would we wish to!

Linda Shuttleworth

Offering Community Leaders an alternative understanding of Mental Ill Health

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1 in every 8 people in the world are living with a Mental Disorder. (This includes everything from Depression and Anxiety, through Substance Misuse and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, to Bipolar Mood and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, and Psychosis.)  

80% of these people live in Low and Middle Income Countries. Yet despite how common it is, misunderstanding, stigma and mistreatment of people with mental ill health persists in Uganda as it does across much of the world. This can be a real barrier to effective treatment, adding to the other barriers of cost, availability and accessibility of treatment. 

Participants assessing their knowledge

To address this, Jamie’s Fund embarked on an extensive programme of MH Sensitisation for community leaders who are not healthcare professionals. We developed and piloted a one day event, based on WHO guidance and materials.  The aim was to raise awareness that mental ill health can be recognised as a health condition, and treated as such. It offers an alternative to the commonly held traditional beliefs involving punishment for sin, magic, disturbed ancestors and curses as causes.

We then encouraged our 25 partner Hospitals and Health Centres to send us a budgeted plan for running such events. Once agreed, we provided the necessary funding. 

Recently, we have been reviewing the impact of this programme. Almost all of our partners have held at least one Community Leaders Event, and several have held two or three. 

Telling the group what mental illness feels like

In total, at the time of writing, 1004 community leaders from across the country have participated in one of the 25 CLS events (30 days in total as some facilities ran multiple events), at an average total cost of £20 per participant.  

These leaders represented a wide range of roles within local communities. For example; Youth leaders, Teachers, Civic leaders, Traditional Healers, Village Health Team volunteers, Church leaders, Community workers, Police, Bodaboda (motorbike taxi) drivers, Social workers, Business people, Carers,  Prison Officers, Traditional Birth Attendants and Representatives of the elderly. 

We had asked our partners to send us reports of their events. Most of these included positive comments and helpful feedback, and about half also included the scores from a Mental Health knowledge test completed by the leaders at the start and end of the event. Typical comments were:

‘‘A quite number of the leaders were surprised by some features of mental illness especially psychosis and were surprised to know that it can be treated medically without going to the witch doctors as most of them had thought it’s actually evil spirits as well as witch craft.’ 

Break time

And the test scores from all the facilities which returned them showed a statistically significant improvement in mental health knowledge at the end of the day’s event. 

Not only that, there was evidence of changed awareness and attitudes being put into action, as previously neglected community outcasts were brought into MH clinics for treatment, and attendances soared in many places (which presented a different kind of challenge!)           

Linda Shuttleworth, Jamie’s Fund Trustee

A visit to Kumi Hospital in north east Uganda.

Ewan and I first came to Kumi Hospital in 2018. We met Amuron, then a general registered nurse. This year she graduated as a psychiatric clinical officer, having been sponsored by Jamie’s Fund, and is taking the lead in the development of mental health services in Kumi Hospital. Having been impressed by Amuron’s lovely warm personality, intelligence and care for people with mental illness, we are thrilled to have witnessed this career progression.

Dr Raymond, Medical Director, and Amuron

Kumi Hospital was originally for leprosy patients and is a spacious and serene setting – that suits our patients with acute mental illness too. The medical director is new, and is building a good team, supporting Amuron in all the possibilities for the future.  

It is in a poor area.  Most people are subsistence farmers.  The soil looks poor and bare rock is visible in some places.  The main crops are the more drought-resistant ones – millet, sorghum (a kind of millet) and cassava. Most of the houses are of sun dried mud brick, rather than the more durable and more expensive fired brick and most have thatched roofs rather than the corrugated iron we commented on before

We had a morning meeting, with what we thought was an early lunch part way through: bread, boiled egg, mandazi (Ugandan doughnut, sort-of), and banana. Great work in the meeting, reviewing Amuron’s annual report and considering her project proposal for what next.

The team then invited us to join them on a home visit. Oh yes please!

Our vehicle took us with Amuron and her colleague out to a rural area, dry and brown, awaiting the rains.  The vehicle stopped under a tree, and a relative of the lady concerned led us on a long walk through the cassava fields under the midday sun. Brought back so many memories of similar expeditions in earlier times. 

You learn so much on such a visit. We were sitting amidst a ring of thatched houses, the lady herself there, with the husband across the circle, while a whole group of neighbours and assorted children sat in a ring on the dusty ground preparing the cassava tubers in the centre. 

Taking the outer coating off the cassava

The clinical consultation continued, and no one took the slightest heed to issues of confidentiality. That doesn’t take a priority as it does in the west. You need your family, neighbours and friends to support you, and they might as well hear what is being said so they are properly genned up. All very interesting indeed.

Then, would we mind seeing another patient? A similar trek, to find that this patient had taken off to avoid us and didn’t look like she was coming back any time soon. So we talked to the family and concerned friends while we could. 

A relative plaiting rope out of sisal.

Finally, perhaps just one more? Off we went again across the fields. This was a man of 40 or so, at home with his parents, and depressed for a long time. We were able to discuss possible changes of meds, and identified some psychosocial dynamics that might benefit from discussion. 

There is something very special about seeing patients at home.

As we got back, lunch appeared, the full whack with rice, Irish potatoes (called thus since our Malawi days long ago), beef stew, veggie casseroles and water melon. Oh! That earlier little confection must have been breakfast!

Maureen Wilkinson.

Suicide Prevention Training

When we visited Uganda early in 2022, we heard many concerns about suicide and attempted suicide being on the increase across the country. Often it was thought that the impact of Covid 19 and the associated lockdowns were behind this. Staff in many hospitals spoke of the fear, bereavement, poverty, losses and disruptions to normal life. 

Freddy Odong

While we were there, we were able to meet for the first time Freddy and George, two staff from Gulu Regional Referral Hospital. Gulu has had a mental health partnership with Sheffield NHS trust for many years, and has developed the capacity to deliver training on many topics. We were really pleased to find out more from Freddy Odong about the possibility of running a Suicide Prevention workshop. 

Back home, discussions and planning continued, based on Freddy’s proposal, and we reached an agreement for him to deliver a two day training event for Jamie’s Fund.  Mental health staff from our more active partner hospitals would be invited to participate. Then Ebola began to spread in some districts of Uganda, necessitating travel restrictions, and some mental health staff were involved in the efforts to contain the epidemic. Thankfully it was averted, and the training went ahead in mid-December 2022.  

35 staff from 18 hospitals across Uganda, both urban and rural, came to the National Psychiatric Hospital, Butabika, which was the venue for the training.  Jamie’s Fund was able to cover all the costs of the training for the participants.  Even before they set off, we were receiving encouraging comments from some of their managers.    

Sister Flora, Senior Nursing Officer of Uganda Martyrs Hospital, Ibanda, said:

 ‘I heartily thank you very much for supporting us as a hospital in training our PCO and the staff; particularly in the forthcoming suicide prevention training. That was so thoughtful of Jamie’s Fund, for we can’t spend a week without a victim of suicide attempt’

A key focus was empowering them to mobilise other staff and community leaders to identify and support people at risk of attempting suicide. Traditionally suicide has not only been stigmatised, but it is still illegal in Uganda. This means that any data is an underestimate of the true scale of the problem.

We had some appreciative comments from some of the participants after the training:

‘…for sure we appreciate your support and the energy you put in to make us better whereby the training was excellent and we finished well therefore we received Certificates, knowledge and happiness.

I assure you beyond a reasonable doubt that ALL the trainees benefited and promised to apply the skills to the ground level so that all members from various corners of the world will be screened and helped therefore the number of suicidal attempts will be reduced’

‘…We successfully attended the suicide prevention training, it was so interactive.

A group photo after the training at Butabika hospital.

We really appreciate the opportunity and support given to us’

‘Thank you so much for our recent training on suicide, it was very wonderful “Knowledge is Power”. You have empowered us to save lives’

‘Thank you…for facilitating this training in place, send my regards to the Trustees of Jamie’s Fund, it’s a lot added. Odong did it well, he is good’

Before and after training test scores showed increased knowledge and understanding as a result of the training (Average scores before were 65.5%, after were 75.9%)

During the training, Freddy set up a WhatsApp support group for the trainees, and has been phoning each of them to encourage them to put their training into action in their own hospitals and local communities.

And before we knew it, in mid-January, Simon Peter, one of the trainee PCOs sponsored by Jamie’s Fund, had already shared the training with a huge mixed group of staff at Ibanda Hospital.  

Afterwards, Freddy commented on how passionate a staff group they were: ‘Thank you very much for trusting and giving me the opportunity for executing all the roles with Jamie’s Fund. It has been lovely working with people who have passion for mental health and serving the community’

Odong Freddy, Trainer                        Linda Shuttleworth, JF Trustee

Reflections on becoming involved in mental health care

It is probably true to say that even as recently as 2012 most people in the UK were not particularly aware of mental health as a significant issue. Although it has been part of life for many families for years, even in the UK, mental illness and mental health care is usually low in the priorities for funding and is too often stigmatised. Certainly I was not really aware of the size of the problem, but over the last 10 years my understanding has grown while, at the same time, mental health and particularly mental illness have been discussed much more widely in the media. This has been helped significantly by many celebrities speaking out about their own experienced.

When we set up Jamie’s Fund in 2012, I remember going to the inaugural trustees meeting and feeling completely out of my depth as those with great knowledge and experience of both Africa and of mental health discussed what we could do as a charity. Over the past ten years my knowledge has grown considerably, particularly through the privilege of visiting Uganda where I have met some of those with mental illness, as well as the families and health care workers caring for them. I have reflected recently on this journey of discovery, and I would like to share some of those thoughts.

Travelling to Uganda for the first time towards the end of 2016, I was struck by the enormity of the challenge posed by mental illness. It not only disrupts the person life but often that of the family as well.  The associated stigma affects the wider family and may make it difficult to find schooling or employment, resulting in poverty for all. It became very clear to me early on that, for many people, access to mental health services to obtain effective treatment is incredibly difficult, and this is particularly true for the very large numbers of people on very low incomes.  This is a complex problem: simply getting to a hospital for a consultation takes time and money. It necessitates time away from productive activity which means a further loss of income for families that can ill-afford it. Additionally, this may be needed every month, possibly for years. Also medicines usually have to be paid for.  These are difficult choices when you have to balance paying for medicines against meeting the school fees for your children. Without strong support and encouragement patients and their families can easily fall by the wayside.  

Again on that first trip, I was privileged to meet a number of those health professionals working with some of the poorest people. Travelling with them to outreach clinics was a revelation and watching them deliver individual care to perhaps 50 or 60 people in a day shows their dedication and commitment.  This has made an enormous difference to many lives, and not just to the patients but also to their families and communities as well.  

Between 2016 and 2019, I became aware a great surge in interest in mental health that was perhaps as strong in Uganda as in the UK. It certainly seemed to have risen up everyone’s agenda but, as always, the challenge was, and remains, the harnessing of enthusiasm and the provision of funding for effective programmes of treatment and care.

It has been against this background that Jamie’s Fund has been operating. When we first began the charity, our key aim was to commemorate Jamie’s life by the building of a new, more adequate, mental health unit at Kisiizi hospital, so that something positive could come out of his death.  Having achieved that and while undertaking a small amount of work with two other hospitals, enabled by a generous legacy, we suddenly found that health care staff at hospitals all over Uganda were wrestling with the delivery of mental health services. We received a great welcome in many hospitals around the country where there was the same strong desire to do good work amongst those with mental illness.  

The fact that Jamie’s Fund has been able to support so many initiatives and to train so many people over the past few years, enabling Ugandans to help other Ugandans, has been entirely due to the enormous generosity of many people both in the UK and around the world who have contributed towards the work.

I still feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges posed by mental illness even in the UK, let alone in rural Uganda and yet every individual who has been touched at all is a life improved.  That we have been able to touch so many lives is down to the hard work of many health care staff in Uganda and the generosity of our many donors. As Chair of Jamie’s Fund, I would like to thank everyone who has given and continues to give, so generously to support our work.

Hugh Burgess

Chair of Jamie’s Fund

TV programme on the challenges for mental health care in Uganda

One of our partners in Uganda sent me a link to this 10-minute video on Youtube.

Mental illness in Uganda: millions abandoned without diagnosis, drugs or support.

It was shown on Channel 4.  https://youtu.be/jT7kFaTuDZY

I have just watched it and it describes all too clearly how difficult it is for people to access mental health care in Uganda. It shows a family who has to lock up their son as they and the neighbours are afraid of him when he is disturbed, as they don’t know what else to do or where to go.  It demonstrates that there is still a great need in Uganda, but also that the approach we are taking in Jamie’s Fund is along the right lines.

There is an interview with Professor Segane Musisi who describes how one of the problems is the lack of mental health literacy, so people don’t know what to do when someone is mentally ill.  We are addressing this in all too small a way with our Community Leaders Sensitisation.  This is a one-day session for local leaders to learn what can be done for those with a mental illness.

Professor Musisi

Prof Musisi also talks about the lack of trained mental health staff in Uganda.  Again, we are helping to address this by sponsoring seven nurses to train as psychiatric clinical officers, and we have trained over 900 non-specialist clinical staff in the basics of diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and epilepsy on a five day course using WHO material.

Three weeks ago, I was in a Zoom meeting with the lead for Mental Health in the Ministry of Health in Uganda, Dr Hafsa.  I was pleased to hear her say that she has been impressed by the number of hospitals she has visited where they talk about support from Jamie’s Fund. She also said how she has seen how we have “shaken up mental health services” in one of the main Catholic hospitals in Kampala.  

She confirmed that our programmes are in alignment with the priorities set by the Ministry of Health.

But there is still so much to be done. We could fund ten times as many Community Leaders Sensitisation sessions with our 25 partner hospitals if we had the money, and still the level of mental health literacy would be relatively low.

And the cost of medication remains an issue for many.

If you would like to contribute to fund more training, please click the donate button at the top of the page.

Thank you.

Mukono Hospital staff are running community clinics

Mukono is about 30 miles west of the centre of Kampala and is more or less a suburb.  The Church of Uganda hospital is a busy hospital providing care to the town.  During the pandemic times were hard, with everyone having less money and avoiding coming to hospital if they could, which reduced the hospitals income.

The hospital understood the need for developing mental health care from our first meeting and they were already providing some services.  With support and encouragement from Jamie’s Fund they have done a lot to develop their mental health care work.  

There is a weekly mental health clinic in the hospital and they are getting referrals to the clinics from outside of the hospital.

Early on they were concerned that many people in the area had not heard much about mental ill-health and so the staff went out to churches on a Sunday. With the approval of the minister, they spoke with the congregations about mental illness and what could be done about it.

The staff at Mukono were concerned that it might be hard for patients to get to the hospital for clinics so they asked if it would be possible to run four community clinics.  The hospital would provide the vehicle and medicines if we could support the other costs such as fuel and staff costs.  We were pleased to be able to support them.

When Maureen and I visited in February we joined Lamet, Sharon and Emmanuel on a visit to one of the community clinics at Nakawa about 15 miles from the hospital.  It was held in a health centre beside a church.  We were pleased to see there was a banner saying there was mental health clinic running.  This in itself is progress – being open and talking about mental illness.

That morning the staff saw nineteen patients.  Most of them were already known to the service and were mainly coming to get their medicine.  But the hospital was 15 miles away and also the drugs at this clinic are given with no charge. So they saved the cost of travel and medicines.

Francis, the clinical officer who runs the health centre, and I went over to the church services and at a suitable point we told them why we were running the clinic and please would they encourage others to come, if they thought they might be helped.

Lamet and I had a discussion with Francis about how there is a considerable area east of  the health centre where there is no health facility.  There are likely to be people in that area who are being confined or shackled as the families don’t know how else to cope with their behaviour. 

Jamie’s Fund is going to support Lamet and colleagues to run a Community Leaders Sensitisation workshop.  This is a one-day event where the staff work with the local leaders – formal and informal, such as teachers, religious leaders, police men, local politicians etc.  JF have funded 24 of these, and trained over 800 people. The results are encouraging with many stories of particularly the policemen and religious leaders being surprised and pleased to find that the hospital may be able to help with disturbed people they don’t know how to help.

There is still a lot to do but we are very encouraged by all that the staff at Mukono hospital are doing for mental health care and the way that the senior management team are so supportive, despite all the competing demands.

World Mental Health Day. 10th October 2022

World Mental Health Day this year is celebrated on the 10th of October. The theme is ‘Make Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority’.

At least one in eight of us around the world is affected by mental health issues, and in some countries it will be many more than that.  In recent years we have experienced the covid pandemic; sharp rises in the cost of living; the climate crisis; drought and flooding and therefore reduced food crops for many; and fears of an international conflict growing from the war between Russia and Ukraine.  For people all over the world these concerns have brought great anxiety. 

Anxiety makes us vulnerable to other mental health problems. For some it will worsen physical health too.  Mental health is affected by so many internal and external factors, yet around the world only a tiny proportion of the health budget is actually devoted to mental health services. 

The World Health Organisation says that World Mental Health Day 2022 is a chance to “rekindle our efforts to protect and improve mental health.”

Jamie’s Fund has been working to support teams in the Protestant and Catholic church hospitals of Uganda as they reach out to their local communities. Not only have they been treating more patients with mental illness and epilepsy, but they have been meeting key leaders in their localities to explain how mental illness and epilepsy can be recognised, and how mental health can be improved for all in the community.

As the mental health teams reach out – many of the teams newly developed with Jamie’s Fund support – local people are surprised and very happy to discover that individuals whom they thought were possessed by demons or affected by witchcraft are actually suffering from mental health problems, and that treatment is available at the hospital or one of the new community clinics. Gradually more people are coming to see if the good news is really true.

Members of Jamie’s Fund are very encouraged by all the progress that has been made over the last few years, and we treasure the warm relationships we have with the young people who are carrying out this wonderful development. We are also immensely grateful for the friends who continue to support us with their donations.

Thank you for helping us to continue our efforts to protect and improve mental health for all.

Maureen Wilkinson

The impact of Covid & lockdowns on young people.

As the world woke up to the threat of Covid in early 2020, many countries closed their borders and locked down, in an effort to protect their citizens. Uganda was one of them. The economic impact of very hard lockdowns was much worse for the poorest of that country, than the effects of the virus itself. Apart from some early food handouts in Kampala, there was no Government support for the vulnerable. 

Schools and universities in Uganda were closed for twenty two months, the longest in the world. Children and students have only returned to learning from January this year. Everywhere we travelled, both rural and urban, we heard concerns expressed for the young. More children have been exposed to domestic violence and abuse. More are living in poverty. Many teenagers have completely disengaged from education, and found ways to earn a little money, day to day. Their mental health is said to have suffered. Suicide and suicide attempts have become more common. More alcohol and substance misuse is evident. More girls as young as 12 and 13 are pregnant, and delivering a baby at such a young age carries the risk of more complications for both mother and child. 

These concerns have been substantiated by recent research coming from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine*: it is estimated that 15 million children in Uganda have not attended school for 22 months. Many were unable to access and use distance learning materials. There has been a 22.5% increase in pregnancies among school-going girls and young women between March 2020 and June 2021. There was an increase in child labour from 21% to 36%, affecting girls in particular. Some schools have gone for good, unable to reopen for lack of staff, students and funding, or sold for redevelopment. 

As elsewhere in the world, the pandemic has worsened existing inequalities and barriers to education, training and employment. Those in the poorest households have fared worst. With Uganda still a low income country, with ambitions for development, you wonder how these lost years and lost lives will affect the nation-building which is needed. 

Linda Shuttleworth

March, 2022.

*The Conversation, February 15, 2022. Simone Datzberger, UCL, Amiya Bhatia, LSH&TH, Jenny Parkes, UCL, and Karen Devries, LSH&TH.