Rwanda: Organization helps mental health patients to be productive

A member of NOUSPR using the sewing machine.
A member of NOUSPR using the sewing machine.
A member of NOUSPR using the sewing machine.

The National Organization of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (NOUSPR), which advocates for people with current or past psychosocial problems, has set up an initiative to group its members according to their health situation to form cooperatives so that they can earn a living.

Seated in a room making the baskets, trays, mats, others on tailoring machines, a group of people who have experienced or are experiencing mental health problems are being supervised by chairwoman Shemsha Murekatete.

“The main challenge we have is that society is not aware of how to handle people with mental health problems, instead they are often tied up and neglected,” she said in an interview with Rwanda Focus, adding that now these people are earning a living and taking care of themselves.

She added that these people are productive when given care, and they can be part of any family agenda, and whatever they are making in their cooperatives, is productive to the community.

“Instead of judging people by their past, stand by their side and help build their future. Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and harder to bear,” Murekatete added

She said much is needed to sensitize the population so that the community stops stigmatizing and isolating people with mental health problems.

“We distributed 40 bicycles and 46 mobile phones to the NOUSPR patient’s experts who have been in the field for over 11 months. Patient Experts (PEs) the people with psychosocial disabilities who have ever experienced mental relapse of different levels and with the feeling of the ordeal they passed through and how they suffered in the hands of their career to volunteer to provide fair treatment to those who go through the same mental health conditions,” she said.

Linda Butoya, said she was traumatized during the 1994 genocide against the Tustis, but instead of counseling, she would be kept in the house tied with ropes.

“Ever since I got the medication in 2000, I healed. I am married with two children and have my garden,” she said.

She can afford to sustain herself including children, through making baskets, they buy them and she gets her money.

“We want to advocate for people with psychosocial disability as well as providing a platform,” said Sam Badege, the founder of the association. “People with mental health problems are sometimes neglected by the society as they are regarded useless, they rocked in houses but if they are cared for, they might become important people,” he said.

He said that such people should not be taken as useless; they have to be taken to the hospital like any other person and are part of any other family programs including property.

“People with psychosocial disability need to be treated with the respected dignity that enables them to enjoy their human rights and be part of others,” he added.


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