Beliefs about mental health in Uganda
Beliefs about health generally can vary across cultures, and there is no right or wrong perspective.
In Uganda, people have a wide range of beliefs about mental illness. They may think it is caused by:
• Thinking too much
• Disagreement within the family
• Ancestral spirits (Mizimu) or Clan Gods (Misambwa)
• Curses or witchcraft
• God's power over people or a failed relationship with God
• Personal weakness
• Passed down the family
• Alcohol and drug use
• Physical illness, such as HIV/AIDs
"All this time James’ family were trying to seek help. His behaviour had caused a rift to emerge, with everyone blaming each other. They thought demons were causing him to behave like this. What they didn’t know is that it was a mental illness, and it was nobody’s fault."
Read more about James' experiences and recovery story here, on the Peer Nation Uganda website
Terms for mental illness that may be used in Baganda and Basoga include "Kazoole", "Kalogojjano" and "byekika" (clan illness).
At Twogere we believe that people with mental health challenges have a right to access treatment that is beneficial to them. This may be from a combination of providers, such as a doctor who gives medication, and a traditional healer who performs a ritual.
We do not support explanations of mental illness that include personal failings, weakness, or being a bad person. Such beliefs are one of the leading causes of stigma and discrimination against people with mental health challenges.
We also stand against human rights abuses towards people with mental health challenges. This can include chaining or be subjected to treatments they don't consent to, without a valid legal framework.
Sometimes, people with mental health challenges are kept in hospital against their wishes. In Uganda, there is a legal framework for this, called the Uganda Mental Health Act. Read more about the Uganda Mental Health Act and the rights of people with mental illness here.