Students of St Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK) under their organisation Liberalis Audientis, an organisation they formed at school with the aim of spreading mental health awareness and donating to the needy bedding, toiletries, and children’s food at Butabika national referral mental hospital.
According to Jared Musinguzi, the secretary general of the organisation, the donations targeted mothers who have delivered from the hospital and are struggling to maintain themselves, elderly men who are admitted to the facility, and other patients suffering from other opportunistic diseases as well as mental disabilities.
“We chose Butabika hospital because the club was formed to cater for people suffering from mental health illnesses, and Butabika is the main mental health hospital in Uganda, so by coming here, we are fulfilling one of our objectives as a club. We were able to raise funds from fellow students at school, friends, and family, from which we have come up with these items,” he said.
While receiving the donations at the hospital, Dr Harriet Birabwa, the head of clinical services at Butabika hospital, appreciated the kind gesture, saying it was going to contribute a lot to the care of the patients.
“The needs of our patients are always high because their numbers are high, and since there are mental health patients, the destructive rate of things we use is also high. So, we need a constant supply of items like bedding, toiletries and clothes, and we always appreciate everything that can be done to help our patients,” she said, adding that since the patients do not have caretakers with them, they are usually cared for by nurses and other hospital staff, with the hospital providing everything for them.
Birabwa noted that there has been an increase in mental health illnesses in Uganda since the Covid-19 pandemic, with a sharp rise in the number of people with depression, anxiety, alcohol, and substance abuse.
Butabika hospital is the only national referral mental institution in the country, with a bed capacity of 550, though the number often ranges from 850 to 1,000 patients.
The hospital’s outpatient department also handles about 350 clients per day in both the general and mental health care areas. The hospital provides services including general mental health care services and super- specialised services in the areas of alcohol and drug abuse, psychotherapy, and child and adolescent mental health care.
Formed in 2021, Liberalis Audientis, which translates to Listening Heart, Giving Hand, has had several donations before carrying out six charity events in Zirobwe, Masindi and different parts of Kampala.
“Right now, we are planning on starting up mental health camps and community outreaches to raise awareness about mental health. We are also planning on reaching out to other disadvantaged groups, like the albinos,” Musinguzi said.