Alice (Not her real name) married when she was barely 16 years old and has lived with her husband for the last six years. The couple have three children. For the last three years Alice and her husband cultivated beans and potatoes and had good harvests and sold some of it for the wellbeing of their children.
Trouble started when Alice’s husband started abusing alcohol, staying out late and withdrawing from the family. When Alice asked her husband for explanations, she was beaten, and told that she was his property and should not ask such questions.
Alice tried to go back to her parents but was rejected because she had disobeyed them, left school and married a useless man. Alice continued to produce food crops to feed her family, but after cultivation her husband would sell everything in the house and drink all the money.
Her children had no food or clothes and became malnourished. Alice became so depressed by the hopelessness of her situation that she began to contemplate suicide. At one point she took an overdose of drugs, but was rescued by a neighbor who took her to a Health Centre.
When she recovered, the Health Centre nurse called THRIVEGulu, a USAID SAFE grantee based in Gulu, to provide counseling.
Alice remained suicidal because of her family situation, but eventually Alice and her husband were counseled together by THRIVE and both agreed to change their behavior and support their children fully.
Alice surrendered all the drugs that she intended to take and had hidden in the house to the psychosocial counselor. She confessed and said that “I made the worst decision ever, I never thought about how my children would suffer when am gone in their tender age. I will never attempt suicide again. I thank THRIVEGulu for all the support since I thought I would never have any one to talk to. I am happy that my parents have accepted me now due to support from THRIVEGulu”.
Suicide and attempted suicide are widespread in northern Uganda, where high levels of residual trauma from the LRA war remain, and mental illness is heavily stigmatized.
Both men and women are prone to suicide, although women are more likely to talk about suicidal thoughts and get therapy.
Harvest times are particularly serious, where money is coming into households, but is often misappropriated by men to buy alcohol or for other personal use, often leading to gender based violence, depression and suicidal thoughts.
THRIVEGulu works to combat mental health problems through a combination of public sensitization events, professional counselors, trained lay counselors, and work with clan elders in the north. THRIVE’s comprehensive approach has identified many woman at risk of suicide and provided them with counseling and support.
Combating the psycho-social effects of the two decade-long LRA insurgency is just one of several outcomes made possible by the USAID Supporting Access to Justice, Fostering Equity and Peace (SAFE) Program. For more about the SAFE Program, visit us online at: www.safeprogram.ug.