It is almost unbearable to grasp the scale of trauma and terror victims of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi suffered and continue to suffer, even after 27 years from when this atrocity happened. Because of this, mental health remains one of the pressing issues that survivors still grapple with and hence needs attention. Various initiatives have nonetheless come up to help fill this gap and ensure that survivors as well as those who need mental support, access these services. People’s Donah Mbabazi had a chat with Josiane Umurerwa, the founder of Vugukire Hotline (under Mizero Care organisation, a local non-government organisation that helps promote health through psychotherapy services). Her initiative is a digital healthcare platform that is aimed at addressing mental health issues by providing online therapy done with confidentiality in a safe space. Umurerwa she shares her take on the role the youth in this promoting mental health, the challenges present as well as what needs to be done going forward. What impact will your initiative have in terms of promoting mental health? Being in a country which passed through the 1994 genocide against Tutsi; many Rwandans face mental health problems which affect their daily lives in big and small ways. We are together with survivors and all Rwandans during the commemoration week. As, Mizero Care organisation we are dedicated to facilitating the mental health recovery, our therapists will intervene around the country with other therapists led by IBUKA and other related institutions in counselling those who may encounter Post Traumatic stress disorder and related issues. We call on young people to comfort those who may experience mental health issues, you don’t need to be an expert. Caring, communication, and being surrounded by friends is all helpful in dealing with mental health. Young people should contribute highly because our voice matters, lets use it to spread words of hope. When dealing with those who survived the 1994 genocide, counsellors handle survivors who were raped, children who were born out of rape, and individuals whose whole family was wiped away. What is the best way of ensuring that these people find the healing they deserve? The first thing in therapy is to know that healing takes time; patients need to be feel authentically heard, they need to feel that they are in a warm, caring and safe environment. Therefore, therapy sessions may vary from one case to another. So, our health care professional team and staff ensure a dignified and healthy relationship for our patients. There should also be agreements made between one of our therapists and the client on the goals and tasks of the treatment and the development of a personal bond developed from reciprocal positive feelings. Why is mental health now a global crisis? According to World Health Organisation report 2020, close to one billion people have mental disorders. That’s why the theme for world mental health day, last year was ‘Move for mental health: let’s invest.’ Loneliness, depression are one of mental health problems that can make one hopeless, distressed, frustrated and despaired. Surely, mental health shouldn’t be hidden but instead brought to light and dealt with. Why is this still an issue regardless of the efforts in place? We think the effort made is still at a low level. I can give you an example, mental health is neither in the package paid by Community Based Health Insurance, nor paid by other medical insurance companies in our country. Yet it should be at an affordable price that everyone can access. There should be a huge investment in mental health like it is done in other medical intervention areas. Another case is that of young people who come for treatment but their parents don’t, yet they are at times the root causes of their mental health issues. People should work together to handle this by offering family therapy. We commend Imbuto Foundation and its partners to support mental health initiatives like ours. What myths are around mental health that need to be busted? People should change the mind-set of thinking that those who face mental health issues are ‘mad’ or weak. Rather, people should accept its existence and seek the knowledge that it should be dealt with and cured. So many initiatives are in place to fight for mental health, what will you do differently to ensure to make an impact? Through the particularity of Vugukire Hotline (Care Talking Cure), we came up with a method of using phones and messages (SMS) with reliable information that will facilitate many people needing mental health services to easily seek the services. This way, we hope to help them overcome their past experiences and know what to do to improve their mental health. What advice do you offer survivors in order to go through the commemoration week? Commemoration week concerns all of us as Rwandans. For survivors, they should try to understand that they are not alone, they should not accept to be overwhelmed by emotions from bad memories, and understand that we are together as a family. They lost their loved ones, but we here to comfort and love them. We have experienced the dark history as a country but have managed to come from ashes to national development- this we praise the good governance of our country. We believe that genocide will not happen again in Rwanda and we pray that it will not happen anywhere else. Let’s all Remember-Unite-Renew and fight against genocide ideology.