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Message of GAERG President Celebrating World Mental Health Day “Mental Health is a Universal Human Right”

World Mental Health Day, observed annually on October 10, is a day to promote mental health and well-being whilst acknowledging the impact of mental health upon our society.

In the 2018 Rwanda Mental Health Survey conducted by the Rwanda Biomedical Center, the prevalence of major depressive episode among the general population was at 12% and at 35% among survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. In a 2023 report by the Rwanda National Health Management Information System, 44,553 patients were under follow-up care in all health facilities due to mental health conditions. Also, according to a 2022 report by the World Health Organization, in all countries, mental health conditions are highly prevalent. About one in eight people in the world live with a mental disorder.

Mental health is a universal right that every person, regardless of their past, their gender or economic status, deserves to have. Like physical health, mental health has a vital role in our daily lives, influencing our productivity, relationships and overall happiness.

During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the magnitude of suffering and loss that occurred is difficult to comprehend. Entire families were torn apart, and survivors grappled with overwhelming trauma. The unimaginable brutality that genocide survivors and their loved ones endured or witnessed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi has had profound effects.

Genocide survivors experienced physical and psychological torture; were forced into environments of constant fear and danger; and witnessed the violent deaths of their loved ones. The loss of support systems and the destruction of social bonds left survivors without the traditional sources of comfort and resilience that people typically rely on in times of distress. Such loss has intergenerational impacts on survivors’ children and their grandchildren, creating complex layers of mental health challenges. For example, despite the passage of time, there are genocide survivors who continue to grapple with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. Traumatic memories during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi can resurface unexpectedly.

Thus, given the enduring and complex nature of mental health challenges, there is a pressing need for special holistic approaches which can include trauma-informed care, interdisciplinary support, community and family rebuilding, as well as intergenerational healing.

In recent years, GAERG has made remarkable strides in this regard, for example, advancing mental health awareness and care. At the heart of our advancement is the AHEZA Healing and Career Center (AHCC) which is dedicated to offering mental health support, expert career counseling, community outreach programs, and a toll-free helpline, 1024.

AHCC’s mission is clear: to lend an empathetic ear, foster understanding and provide unwavering support to clients to lead fulfilling lives.

AHCC was inaugurated officially in 2019 under GAERG management. Since 2019, over one million community members have been impacted directly and/or indirectly by AHCC services. This impact has resulted in the establishment of 350 Healing Group Safe Spaces which have provided support to approximately 6,000 individuals across the country; the creation of 33 Healing Clubs in public school systems, benefiting around 400 students; and the provision of physical counseling sessions to 300 individuals. We have also reached out to 2,000 individuals through online counseling sessions.

Moreover, AHCC services extend beyond mental health support. AHCC has guided 3,000 Rwandan youth through career counseling, in terms of the knowledge and skills needed to make informed career and life decisions. Collectively, AHCC services represent a beacon of hope, providing a path to improved mental well-being, sustainable futures and greater self-assuredness for our youth and community as a whole.

While achieving long-term impact for mental health awareness is continuous, it is GAERG and AHCC’s ongoing commitment to ensure that our efforts remain sustainable and have lasting positive effects on Rwandan communities.

Therefore, in the ongoing celebration of World Mental Health Day, GAERG and AHCC will continue to share stories highlighting mental health journeys especially through radio and television discussions, mental health awareness campaigns, sports tournaments, capacity strengthening workshops, peer to peer support systems, couples and community fellowships.

In closing, I would like to thank our partners and share a call to action. Specifically, in our collective journey to contribute to Rwanda’s economic and social transformation, we recognize that addressing mental health issues is possible with effective support and collaboration. We, therefore, extend heartfelt gratitude to the Government of Rwanda for its leadership. We thank our partners including the Imbuto Foundation, Rwanda Ministry of Health, Rwanda Biomedical Center, Rwanda Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement, Local Government Authorities, Interpeace, and Survivors Fund among many more. Your unwavering dedication and contributions are of great impact.

Additionally, my sincerest appreciation to GAERG Members. Our shared commitment to the well-being of Rwandan remains as vital as ever. Let us continue to strive forward with unwavering dedication, knowing that the work we do in the mental health sector is significant. The challenges may be great; our resolve is greater. Together, we can build a stronger, more resilient, and mentally healthier Rwanda. Thank you for your relentless support and dedication.

TUGOMBA KUBAHO KANDI TUKABAHO NEZA.

Murakoze cyane.

World Mental Health Day, observed annually on October 10, is a day to promote mental health and well-being whilst acknowledging the impact of mental health upon our society.

In the 2018 Rwanda Mental Health Survey conducted by the Rwanda Biomedical Center, the prevalence of major depressive episode among the general population was at 12% and at 35% among survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. In a 2023 report by the Rwanda National Health Management Information System, 44,553 patients were under follow-up care in all health facilities due to mental health conditions. Also, according to a 2022 report by the World Health Organization, in all countries, mental health conditions are highly prevalent. About one in eight people in the world live with a mental disorder.

Mental health is a universal right that every person, regardless of their past, their gender or economic status, deserves to have. Like physical health, mental health has a vital role in our daily lives, influencing our productivity, relationships and overall happiness.

During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the magnitude of suffering and loss that occurred is difficult to comprehend. Entire families were torn apart, and survivors grappled with overwhelming trauma. The unimaginable brutality that genocide survivors and their loved ones endured or witnessed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi has had profound effects.

Genocide survivors experienced physical and psychological torture; were forced into environments of constant fear and danger; and witnessed the violent deaths of their loved ones. The loss of support systems and the destruction of social bonds left survivors without the traditional sources of comfort and resilience that people typically rely on in times of distress. Such loss has intergenerational impacts on survivors’ children and their grandchildren, creating complex layers of mental health challenges. For example, despite the passage of time, there are genocide survivors who continue to grapple with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. Traumatic memories during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi can resurface unexpectedly.

Thus, given the enduring and complex nature of mental health challenges, there is a pressing need for special holistic approaches which can include trauma-informed care, interdisciplinary support, community and family rebuilding, as well as intergenerational healing.

In recent years, GAERG has made remarkable strides in this regard, for example, advancing mental health awareness and care. At the heart of our advancement is the AHEZA Healing and Career Center (AHCC) which is dedicated to offering mental health support, expert career counseling, community outreach programs, and a toll-free helpline, 1024.

AHCC’s mission is clear: to lend an empathetic ear, foster understanding and provide unwavering support to clients to lead fulfilling lives.

AHCC was inaugurated officially in 2019 under GAERG management. Since 2019, over one million community members have been impacted directly and/or indirectly by AHCC services. This impact has resulted in the establishment of 350 Healing Group Safe Spaces which have provided support to approximately 6,000 individuals across the country; the creation of 33 Healing Clubs in public school systems, benefiting around 400 students; and the provision of physical counseling sessions to 300 individuals. We have also reached out to 2,000 individuals through online counseling sessions.

Moreover, AHCC services extend beyond mental health support. AHCC has guided 3,000 Rwandan youth through career counseling, in terms of the knowledge and skills needed to make informed career and life decisions. Collectively, AHCC services represent a beacon of hope, providing a path to improved mental well-being, sustainable futures and greater self-assuredness for our youth and community as a whole.

While achieving long-term impact for mental health awareness is continuous, it is GAERG and AHCC’s ongoing commitment to ensure that our efforts remain sustainable and have lasting positive effects on Rwandan communities.

Therefore, in the ongoing celebration of World Mental Health Day, GAERG and AHCC will continue to share stories highlighting mental health journeys especially through radio and television discussions, mental health awareness campaigns, sports tournaments, capacity strengthening workshops, peer to peer support systems, couples and community fellowships.

In closing, I would like to thank our partners and share a call to action. Specifically, in our collective journey to contribute to Rwanda’s economic and social transformation, we recognize that addressing mental health issues is possible with effective support and collaboration. We, therefore, extend heartfelt gratitude to the Government of Rwanda for its leadership. We thank our partners including the Imbuto Foundation, Rwanda Ministry of Health, Rwanda Biomedical Center, Rwanda Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement, Local Government Authorities, Interpeace, and Survivors Fund among many more. Your unwavering dedication and contributions are of great impact.

Additionally, my sincerest appreciation to GAERG Members. Our shared commitment to the well-being of Rwandan remains as vital as ever. Let us continue to strive forward with unwavering dedication, knowing that the work we do in the mental health sector is significant. The challenges may be great; our resolve is greater. Together, we can build a stronger, more resilient, and mentally healthier Rwanda. Thank you for your relentless support and dedication.

“If you or someone you know is facing mental health issues, then please seek professional help and encourage others to do the same. There are professional mental health networks available in Rwanda, such as our toll-free helpline, 1024.”

TUGOMBA KUBAHO KANDI TUKABAHO NEZA.

Murakoze cyane.

Kigali, 11th October 2023

NKURANGA Jean Pierre

GAERG President

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