Film Festival on Mental Health

Uganda - My Mad World (2015)

About Joseph Atukunda

Joseph is a Ugandan Mental Health Expert & Activist. He advocates for the rights of people with mental Health disabilities in Uganda. He started experiencing episodes of mental illness in 1989 while in his final year at High school and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

Joseph’s Story

Joseph is the Coordinator & Founder of Heartsounds Uganda, a community based organization that he formed to promote mental illness awareness & rehabilitation of mental health patients undergoing recovery.

After laying the foundation of Heartsounds Uganda in Kampala, in 2014 he opened branches which are meant to facilitate people with mental disabilities countrywide. So far, he has formed branches like Heartsounds Kampala, Heartsounds Mbarara, Heartsounds Kabale, and many more are underway.

Joseph’s own experience has been moving. He formed Heartsounds Uganda after being beaten, stripped naked in the public, isolated from his family, failing to complete his education at early age and almost committing suicide because of his illness.

He realized that stigma in Mental health is high in Uganda and has for a long time been treated with a lot of suspicion and misunderstanding with many tribal societies looking at it as a taboo. Joseph stepped up to form an organization to help fellow victims and to tell the public that mental illness can be diagnosed, treated, and almost everyone suffering from mental illness can live a normal life. He started recruiting members to join his organization while he was still admitted at Butabika national referral hospital in Uganda.

His major aim for forming this organization was to help mental health patients get proper training about their human rights which are always abused by normal people, generate a new network from isolation across the Country, offer trainings in peer and self-advocacy, getting entrepreneurship skills which can help them earn a living, learn how to manage stress, skill re-development and research, conduct workshops and get together parties for peers to feel they are not alone, of which all are aimed at offering peer-support to users of mental health, creating public awareness and also fighting stigma.

Heart-sounds Organizations are linked to Butabika, Uganda’s only mental referral hospital and to UK’s mental Health organizations which work to improve the lives of people living with mental illness. Heartsounds Uganda which is registered with Kampala City Council Authority is an organization of mental health service users for the users and by the users. The core activity is peer support which is a much need psychosocial support for mental health recovery. The Organization has 150 fully registered service users around Kampala. It is run and managed by service users in recovery process. Joseph believes peer support promotes and improves the welfare of service users psychologically.

His Organization Heartsounds, is in partnership with Butabika Hospital Uganda’s national referral hospital which refer to the centre newly discharged mental patients and it offers peer support to them during the sensitive time when they have just returned to the community. Joseph Atukunda’s Organization Heartsounds in partnership with Butabika Hospital has projects funded by International Organizations like, Department for International Development (DFID) UK, Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA), Storm Fund for creative Arts for recovery , and Disability Rights Funds (DRF) which funded projects to run mental health programs in the Country.

Joseph Atukunda has strongly advocated whatever he can to urge that mental Health service users are experts by experience in mental health and can support each other as well as advise the service providers on developing better practices. He got a Commonwealth professional fellowship and spent three months in the UK Sept. to Dec 2012 to observe good practices, peer support and other recovery led services in the UK as well as share the Ugandan perspective.In 2013 he went back to the UK, to attend a Clinical psychologists’ trainers conference organized by Lancaster university and are planning with Lancaster university to introduce a program in Uganda’s Makerere university to have mental health service users go to the lecture rooms of the clinical psychologist trainees and share their stories and perspective to make the training sessions better and more practical as its done in Lancaster University. He has also been to South Africa on the same.

Joseph Atukunda is an inspirational leader, he was also inspired by a visit of UK mental services users to Uganda in 2008 and decided to quit his job to set up a User Resource Centre to promote mental illness awareness in Uganda. He transformed the internet cafe in his Premises into a thriving Resource Centre in which users work, meet, surf the internet for free. Heartsounds is now leading the training and support of the first ever peer support worker group in Uganda in conjunction with Butabika Hospital, promoting a mental health film club and supporting the first Ugandan Hearing Voices Group. His visits to UK focused on experiencing the UK take on peer led services, recovery orientation and user leadership.

His enthusiasm and strong commitment to support others in mental distress and support a more compassionate response to needs. As a person who recovered from a mental illness, Joseph is a great example for many people, with or without a psychosocial disabilities. He is a passionate coordinator and advocate for the rights of his peers. He knows how to speak and attract attention for his cause and is able to think out of the box, ‘crazy ideas’. Joseph spends 7days/24 hours on Heartsounds Uganda and his peers support and resource project is inspiring lots of people in Uganda and far behind. Joseph shares his ideas, pictures and experiences on Facebook almost every day and never forgets to support others or react on questions and comments.

His Early Life and Work

He was born in 1969 in western Uganda. His late father, Mzee James Kahigiriza was the last prime minister of Ankole before the kingdoms were abolished in 1966. He is married with one wife and five children and more expected to come. He studied at Kings College Buddo secondary school and obtained a higher Diploma in Accountancy from Nkumba College of commerce now Nkumba University. Between 2004 and 2009, he worked as logistics coordinator for International Medical Corps which closed down in Uganda in June 2010 and prior to this he worked as an accountant for Action against Hunger USA. And now he spends 7days/24 hours on Heartsounds Uganda peer supporting his peers and his resource project is inspiring lots of people in Uganda and far behind. Joseph shares his ideas, pictures and experiences on Facebook almost every day and never forgets to support others or react on questions and comments.

His Life with Mental Illness

He has been a service user since 1989 and was in his last year at high school when problems started “I was outgoing at school as you know, an extrovert but all over a sudden I became withdrawn and fearful, lost interest of the things I liked.” For Joseph this was the beginning of depression but he had no idea what it was. “After holidays I refused to go back to school and tried to even commit suicide.” He was first treated at Mulago Hospital (general hospital).

He recalls how he was told very little about what he was suffering from. Prior to being taken to Mulago hospital, I was taken to traditional healers, as most Ugandans are tempted to do when faced with mental illness for the first time. In 2003, He got manic episode and was taken to Butaibka (national psychiatric hospital). On arrival at the hospital, he remembers how he was injected, stripped naked and put in a very cold isolation room. “It’s a terrible experience, very traumatic, at one time I hallucinated that I was in hell. These isolation rooms don’t even have toilet facilities and sometimes you are expected to eat in the same room before it has been cleaned. When I started seeing Dr Onen in 2005, he gave me an insight into my bipolar and I came to understand the depression side of bipolar which I had suffered silently without seeking treatment”.

Bollywood Body Confidence

About Bollywood Body Confidence:

Bollywood is the golden thread running through Indian society. It reflects life but it also shapes it. Over time, Bollywood stars have changed their looks to reflect society’s preferences, while keeping emotional turbulence hidden from public view. But might Bollywood hold the key to better mental health in India?

About Lucy Beresford

Lucy Beresford is a British writer, broadcaster & psychotherapist, born in West Sussex.

Lucy hosts a 2-hour Sex & Relationships phone-in show on LBC,and is a regular on the Press Preview for Sky News. She blogs for Huffington Post UK Lifestyle and was shortlisted for ‘Dating Expert of the Year 2015′ by UK Dating Awards. She is on the Faculty of The School of Life and is a Fellow of the RSA.

She is the author of four books. Her second novel Invisible Threads was published by Quartet Books in May 2015 and is in film development. Hungry For Love was also published by Quartet in 2016. Her non-fiction book, Happy Relationships: at home, work and play, is published by McGraw-Hill in the UK, Fingerprint Publishing in India and has been translated into Chinese and Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese.

Her first novel Something I’m Not, was published by Duckworth. Her short story “Endurance” was published in The London Magazine and her short story “A Tender Meditation” was recorded as an audio story for Spoken Ink.

Lucy reviews contemporary fiction for a variety of British publications including The Spectator, the New Statesman, The Literary Review and The Sunday Telegraph. She appears frequently in the national international media, providing psychological insights into topical questions, and her appearances include the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2, LBC, CNN, Daily Politics on BBC2, BBC Breakfast on BBC1, This Morning on ITV, NewsTalk on Channel 5, and Woman’s Hour and the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

She was the agony aunt for Healthy magazine and, before that for 5 years at Psychologies. Lucy has written for The Mail on Sunday,[4] The Sunday Telegraph, Evening Standard and The Spectator.

She has an M.A. in Psychotherapy awarded by the City University, London, and an Advanced Diploma in Integrative Psychotherapy, having studied for both at Regent’s College School of Psychotherapy and Counselling Psychology, London. She is registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). She sees patients for the Priory Hospital, Roehampton, and privately in central London. She also has a degree in English Literature from the University of Durham.

Her initial career was in finance, with Shearson Lehman Brothers and BZW.

The Conversation

We recently launched a campaign titled #IDidIT as our contribution to World Mental Health Day – This 10/10/17. The campaign saw the release of our film – The Conversation

The film presents a never-seen-before, on-camera live therapy session with 7 prominent individuals agreeing to undergo a therapy session with Trijog.

It features popular public figures such as comics Tanmay Bhat, Varun Thakur as well as Humans of Bombay founder Karishma Mehta among others.

The sessions were conducted in a comfortable setting and atmosphere. The idea was simple: to have the participants open up about their lives and talk us through their smaller mental scratches before they turn into scars. We normalised therapy and presented it for what it actually is – a conversation.

Through this project, we aimd to convey how a significant part of mental health is not just about dealing with larger disorders but about catching the signs early. This can only happen by reaching out to the right people and talking through problems, no matter how big or small.

The campaign received great praise and visibility and has touched over 5,00,000 Lives this world mental health day.

Did you know? #IndiaForMentalHealth