More efforts to tackle second-generation trauma is needed, says mental health activist As the Rwandan proverb goes “Ujya gutera uburezi arabwibanza” (more like, charity begins at home), Kwizera Rulinda, a mental health activist indicates the need for home-based intervention backed by evidence to address effects of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi aftermath. In regards to the mental health challenges that survivors still grapple with to this day, he advocates for ample research as a crucial step, along with other present strategies, to continue supporting Genocide survivors with mental health support. He says, in western countries where mental health has become very effective and developed, the very contributing factor for this was research and thinks that, if the country can invest more in early career research focusing on mental health, it can be a brilliant and proper way to solutions. Rulinda had a chat with People’s Donah Mbabazi, discussing how best to further efforts handling trauma, mind wellness and mental health in general, especially now that the country is in commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Excerpts; It’s been 28 years since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi happened. Survivors are still grappling with the effects of the aftermath. Shed more light on the specifics of trauma and why it is such an enduring struggle? In the aftermath of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the country was devastated; survivors were physically and psychologically damaged. Families were decimated, their homes and communities destroyed. Specifically, Genocide survivors showed high rates of mental health and psychosocial problems due to the inconceivable, dehumanised brutality that the majority of them had been exposed to. Rulinda advocates for ample research in addressing trauma. Photos/Courtesy There is more than one aspect to trauma. To be traumatised usually means that individuals have been affected by the traumatic event. That is, they have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and some impairment in their abilities to function. To be traumatised means that individuals have some emotional or behavioural problems as a result of a traumatic event. What facet hasn’t been utilised in addressing trauma and how best should it be explored? I think the fact that mental health has been underfunded which hindered the development/creation of enough initiatives to combat trauma related issues were the main issues, fortunately today the issue is changing gradually. Although I can’t also forget to appreciate several approaches implemented i.e. support groups, peer support, self-help groups, psycho-education that was introduced to help families. The initiatives to tackle trauma related issues among second generations are less, compared to the challenges they’re experiencing. If government and non-governmental organisations can introduce/support the school programme concerning maintaining mental health among students and other organisations where youth belong, every aspect of mental health including trauma can be addressed earlier and solved. How essential is the youth’s role in handling the aftermath of the Genocide? Youth have a tremendous role as future leaders in preserving memory and healing. This can be achieved by creating more spaces for peacebuilding and dialogue on healing and reconciliation. It’s indispensable to young people merely because community healing lies in their hands which is a stepping stone to create the Rwanda we want and also preserving the memory of generations before and after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as a milestone. The activist calls for more spaces for peacebuilding and dialogue on healing and reconciliation. As to curb well-being in the future generation, fellow young people need to prior engage and intervene in mental health campaigns and advocacy towards reducing psychological issues including stress, anxieties and trans-generation trauma as post-genocide effect by promoting psycho-social support. As the founder of Mental Health Journal Rwanda, what efforts are you directing towards trauma related to the Genocide? This aligns with Mental Health Journal Rwanda’s mission to promote mental health awareness and advocacy though writing and community outreach. We journal mental health related issues as a result of the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to include but not limited to PTSD, anxiety, depression hence generating self-help/coping tips towards overcoming it. And also, our future plan is to enlarge our impact and collaborate several youth-led organisations and government bodies as to mitigate trans-generation trauma that is on the rise. I am calling and requesting fellow Rwandans to understand that mental health is more than illness. We need this wellness every day for the smooth running of our daily activities, so embracing this will be the way beyond other alternatives, in order for us to have healthy minds and become productive in our daily routines.