Over 1000 patients at Butabika Hospital treated to festive cookout

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Over 1000 patients at Butabika Hospital treated to festive cookout
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The Soul Foundation, a dedicated mental health advocacy organisation has hosted a special cookout for over 1000 patients at Butabika Hospital.

This initiative is part of their bid to reshape the narrative surrounding mental health, especially in anticipation of the festive season.

Geraldine Opoka, the founder of Soul Foundation, emphasised the importance of destigmatising mental health issues and encouraged individuals to seek help without fear or judgment.

Opoka, also serving as the executive director of the foundation, underscored the positive influence of initiatives such as the annual cookout in dispelling negative perceptions surrounding mental health.

"We aim to portray mental health in a neutral light. Currently, the perception is largely negative, with a lot of sadness and fear. People often feel that having a mental health problem is the end, which prevents them from seeking help soon enough," she explained.

Opoka expressed the foundation's mission to shed a positive light on conversations about mental health, emphasising that anyone, regardless of their background, can face challenges but can also recover through proper treatment.

Opoka outlined the various activities planned for the celebration, including a cookout that provided a high-quality meal for the hospital's 1,500 patients and staff.

The foundation also acknowledged the exceptional performance of the staff at Butabika, recognizing their dedicated work.

"We reached out to our partners to contribute items that could be given as gift hampers or shopping vouchers. So we have an activity for that as well. We also organized a children's party for the children's ward, a cake-cutting event, and donated Christmas cakes to bring joy to the patients," she further explained.

Opoka, who is also a dance fitness instructor, emphasized the importance of treating individuals with mental health issues as human beings and promoting their recovery.

She highlighted the positive changes observed in patients' responses to engagement, indicating increased respect and understanding.

"Dance movement therapy is recognised as a legitimate form of therapy by the World Health Organization," Opoka stated. She shared her experience of conducting dance classes in Butabika for three years, emphasizing the impact on changing perspectives and reducing stigma.

Opoka appealed for financial support to continue the organization's work, specifically to assist individuals who cannot afford transportation to participate in therapeutic activities like dance movement therapy. She stressed the importance of community engagement in fostering understanding and support for those facing mental health challenges.

Brenda Kembabazi Senyonga, the marketing and communications officer at Jibu Cooperate Uganda Limited, expressed their partnership with the Soul Foundation to support individuals with mental challenges at Butabika Hospital.

"One of our core pillars at Jibu is promoting thriving and wellness, which includes good physical and mental health. There is no better way to contribute to people's mental health than by putting a smile on the faces of those at this facility. As Jibu works with various communities, the people at Butabika hospital are among the communities we engage with. Besides being a hydration company, we also prioritize people's wellness," she explained.

Kembazazi expressed gratitude for being part of the corporate social responsibility efforts aimed at addressing mental health issues, which have been on the rise in Uganda.

"Mental health is often overlooked, but it has a profound impact on our communities. So, it's essential to collaborate with a team that genuinely believes in people's wellness and is using dance as a means to achieve that. Our goal today is to ensure that the people at Butabika hospital have a good meal, enjoy some Jibu porridge, hydrate with Jibu water, and we are covering their meals using Jibu gas," she added.

Ambrose Muganga, a lawyer, expressed his love for charity and shared his involvement in cooking for the patients and staff at Butabika Hospital during the holiday season.

"As an individual, I try my best to make a difference. This isn't my first time here; it's actually my fourth time this year," he shared.

Florence Nannyonga, the acting Principal Nursing Officer at Butabika Hospital, expressed gratitude for the attention brought to mental health through such events.

"When the public and stakeholders participate in events like this for mentally ill individuals, we see a reduction in stigma towards them. We see them being valued as human beings in the public eye," she explained.

Nannyonga highlighted the importance of providing various forms of treatment to help mentally ill patients regain their sense of humanity and enjoy daily life.

Nannyonga emphasizes the importance of recognizing mental illness as any other illness, highlighting the need for diverse support.

"Music, for example, is considered a form of treatment, and we have an occupational therapy department at Butabika Hospital that focuses on rehabilitation and entertainment for patients, “she said.

According to her, events like these play a significant role, especially for patients who have been abandoned and ostracized, as they help them feel valued as human beings.

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