Befriender Uganda is the first and only Suicide Prevention center in the country which provides counseling, psychosocial support and sensitization services to the local person at no cost.
Suicides being a taboo in the African culture, people fear to talk about these tragedies in our communities. This has led to the manifestation of this social problem hence high rates of suicide related activities in the country.
After realizing that suicide was one of the leading life snatchers in our communities, a pilot project study was done in Wakiso and Kampala District in 2009 and an experimentation of activities that would awaken people were conducted. 10 secondary schools benefited which provided ground foundation for the project’s activities which resumed fully in 2012 at Old Mulago Hospital.
Globally, more than 800,000 people die by suicide every year – around one person every 40 seconds if calculated. This is according to WHO’s first global report on suicide prevention, published in September 2014. It is noted that 75% of suicides occur in low and middle-income earning countries which definitely rounds-up Uganda.
Suicide cases have been on the increase over the recent years. In the past three decades, statistics from the Ministry of Health have indicated a roller-coaster increase which should not be happening.
People face financial stress, political stress, relationship stress and end up with no territory to comfort their distress until they choose deliberate self-harm to stop the pain. In this case, we organized a launch of awareness we themed “Out of Silence.” This was a walk through Kampala district’s suburbs like Mulago, Kalerwe, Makerere, Wandegeya which are part of both Kawempe and Rubaga Divisions. This walk was to let people know that there are services that would help them talk about their troubles when no one seems to care. We used this opportunity to sensitize people about the real impact suicides can cause to the community if survivors don’t reach out for professional help. The event also facilitated our “Seek Help” campaign, where we urge people to seek help when they feel troubled or refer to us those they think need our help.
The event received over 200 participants and we believe over 1000 people were reached throughout this distance. The event received T.V News coverage on three locally dominant T.V stations where by our message reached out to over 40,000 people.
The center has experienced challenges but the dedication of the team’s interest to help the vulnerable groups is one development that has cemented the organization’s future in the country. This year (2014) we have received 7% increase of clients compared to 2013. This means that more people are reaching out to access help unlike the previous years where they would sit on their problems and later amount to suicide attempts.
We were so blessed that our activities led to the program’s feature in the District Newspapers, something that we are grateful for. (See attached file). Our grief counseling attracted local entities like MU-JHU (Makerere University John Hopkins University research collaboration) who saw it vital for their participants and members (especially the HIV positive people) to access our services.
Our package is effective as far as service delivery is concerned and this is why we all enjoy our volunteerism at Befrieder. The program package is as follows;
1. A Helpline (0800200450): This is a toll free crisis intervention helpline. People with trouble coping or thinking straight due to certain problems/ experiences at particular times of distress call the center to be heard or have a neutral party to talk to. This program has worked more for people from distant locations and people who wish to maintain their anonymity.
2. Grief Counseling: This is a program that helps people with a vast range traumatic experiences that push them to grieve to points of no self-rejuvenation. They talk to counselors and social workers trained to listen and offer perspective. The program has benefited many people with problems that had made them lose Hope in life.
3. Suicide ambassadorship and community out-reach program: In these out-reaches, we train people in our local communities to understand suicide clearly and de-associate it from myths and misconceptions. We train them to identify suicidal tendencies/ behavior and help in referring troubled people for professional help.
4. Psycho social support for suicide survivors program: In this program suicide survivors and well-wishers come together to wish each other comfort and also share their experiences with one another. This is intended to aware suicide survivors of the existence of other people feeling something similar to what they are feeling. The program builds confidence and energizes survivors to fight on.
5. Research and suicide studies: Befriender Uganda concentrates its endeavors to help society based on research findings. Therefore, the organization makes it a point to study more and research about new developments in the field of suicide and mental health at large.
6. Referrals: During our risk assessment we are obliged to identify symptoms that depict mental illness. Some people require medical intervention to get back on the road. We work closely with psychiatrists and mental health advocate organizations which help us with clients with special needs.
With these programs and activities Befriender Uganda is becoming influential in people’s lives. Our spirits are no-way seizing; we shall continue listening to people, we shall continue showing compassion and love to people. We shall care and many lives shall strive.
This is why we say, “Together we can save lives.”