The National Association of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry Services in Rwanda (NAUSPR), an organisation which advocates for the rights of the victims of psychiatry, is calling upon the government to scrap all forms of legislation that prohibit people with mental problems from enjoying their full rights.
Ahead of the national celebrations of World Mental Health Day to be marked this Thursday, the Executive Director of NAUSPR, Sam Badege, commended the government for its efforts in handling mental health issues despite the challenges that people with mental issues still face.
“There are still some challenges, mainly social and partly to do with legislation and laws. When someone is classified as mad or mentally unstable, the society isolates that person even when they recover from the sickness,”
“Such people are not accepted back into the society. They are more often isolated and they are no longer considered part of the family when it comes, for example, to issues of inheritance. We also have cases where parents abandon their children in hospitals when they develop mental problems,” Badege says.
Badege also noted that people who formerly suffered from mental problems are, in most cases, prohibited from exercising their rights when it comes to participating in elections and in most cases, are excluded from the development process.
“Rwanda is a signatory of the international agreement for the rights of people with disabilities and the Ministry of Health has done a good job, so we think some of these challenges to do with legislation can be dealt with,” Badege told the press.
“We are happy that our association has been invited to be part of this year’s celebrations. It shows that the government recognises us and cares about us. Mental disability is the worst form of disability because it isolates someone from the society and we know the government understands this,” Badege adds
NAUSPR has about 273 members around the country, mainly people who had mental problems in the past and were admitted at Ndera Mental Hospital but later recovered. Among other things, the organisation helps rebuild their confidence and integrate them back into the society by starting small income generating projects.
As the country prepares to celebrate the World Mental Health Day on Thursday, the Ministry of Health is drumming up awareness of mental health problems.
According to Yvonne Kayitenshonga, the Coordinator of Mental Health at the Ministry of Health, mental disorders continue to manifest themselves among people with chronic diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and diabetes among others, leading to immense suffering to the victims including social isolation, poor quality of life and increased mortality.
“This year we want to focus on the need for integrated psychiatric care, physical and antenatal care among others,” she said.
“Usually it’s because people with chronic diseases tend to despair because they know they will not recover from the disease. Some refuse to take medicine while others develop mental disorders as a result of the disease. This is what we want to tackle,” Kayitenshonga said.