Psychiatry and Decolonisation in Uganda
PSYCHIATRY AND DECOLONISATION IN UGANDA
At a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting in 2012, Robinah Alambuya, Information Officer at the NGO Mental Health Uganda and Chair of the Pan African Network of People with Psychosocial Disabilities (PANUSP) declared that:
The history of psychiatry haunts our present. Our people remain chained and shackled in institutions and by ideas that colonisers brought to our continent and many other parts of the world.
Indeed, we do remain ‘objects of treatment and charity’ and some of the worst human rights violations do occur in the very institutions that claim to provide mental health care services.1
Arambula, who has lived with bipolar disorder for over twenty years, is one of the most passionate members of the mental health service user movement in Uganda.
Although she has had many negative experiences in navigating the psychiatric system, she does not believe that psychiatry is incapable of offering relief to those suffering from mental illness.
Rather, she cannot see why psychiatric services and disability legislation have failed to evolve to meet the needs of those they claim to help and protect.
Parliamentary discussions over the reform of the Mental Health Treatment Act exemplify this lack of change. First enacted under colonial rule and last revised in 1964, the Act does not differentiate between different types of mental disorder, largely neglects community care,