KAMPALA —More than 800 patients at Butabika Hospital, Uganda’s National Psychiatric Referral Hospital were on Friday afternoon treated to a luncheon, in an exciting gesture.
Liberty Life Assurance and Soul Foundation spent the day with patients at the mental health institution —seeking to create awareness around mental health challenges—but also bring a rare smile on their faces.
Butabika authorities said about 900 patients and staff were fed—adding that it is fitting that “our patients and staff have been thought of”.
“We don’t know how much to say thank you to you. We are really deeply grateful for this gesture,” Dr. Angella Ilakut, the head of nursing at Butabika Hospital said.
“We are so privileged to have so many brands and people identifying with us,” she added.
“We’ll be going into the new year with strength to build on our accomplishments and to consolidate our position,” an elated Dr. Angella said, noting that the appreciation by Soul Foundation, Liberty Life Assurance among other brands would seem moving into the new year with vigor.
Dr. Angella said there is a lot of stigma against Butabika Hospital but also against the people who work there and said the Christmas luncheon given to patients and staff was a very kind gesture.
“We’ve been given a lot of support to move on and so we want to promise our partners and friends that we shall continue the journey.”
The official capacity of Butabika Hospital is 550 but currently, we have about 850 patients. The numbers increase daily while the resources to cater for them remain the same,” Dr. Angella said.
Ms. Gerry Opoka, the Executive Director for Soul Foundation Ltd described as an amazing gesture by sponsors and appreciated them for believing in “our approach to shine a positive light on mental health”.
Opoka says, who also runs a Soul Dance studio says they also seek destigmatize Butabika National Referral Hospital and help to normalise the negative emotions associated with the hospital.
She also thanked the staff members of Butabika Hospital who handle mentally challenged persons, noting that they have very wide bandwidth of patience, as it’s needed to properly care for these patients.
“We want to make people understand that mental illness is not such a bad thing. It’s just life challenges,” said Ms Opoka, adding that the gesture by sponsors would motivate patients and their caregivers to appreciate that there people out there who stand in solidarity with them.
The 2022 Christmas at Butabika edition was hosted under the theme “Smiles for Miles”.
Mrs. Juliet Murungi Okwi, the business development manager at Liberty Life Assurance said they partnered with Soul Foundation to build a positive narrative on mental health and also live a longer lasting impression and smile to patients and their caregivers beyond the food items and drinks.
“We want to create awareness and help prevent the stigma that people have about this place. So we need to change the narration as to what people think about Butabika Hospital,” Mrs Okwi said.
She said, Liberty Life Assurance Company Uganda has provided medical and life insurance services for over a decade in Uganda and is passionate about mental health hence the partnership with Soul Foundation and Butabika Hospital for this year’s Christmas Celebrations.
“Mental health awareness is something that we are really passionate about as a brand. And we want to put an end to the stigma related to mental health,” she said, explaining,” noting that “we sought to bring smiles on faces of those that, you know, seemingly have lost their way around this world or for the future.”
Liberty Life Assurance Uganda and staff also delivered assorted Christmas hampers for the children with mental health challenges while Fitness Junction Gym and Spa donated an oven for the patients to use during an occupational Patient therapy at the hospital.
Key among the sponsors were; Cocacola, Fitness Junction Gym and SPA, Liberty Life Assurance Uganda, Mandela Millers, Yokuku Uganda, KFC and Quality Supermarket.
The others were Capital Shoppers, St. Paul’s Church of Uganda-Buziga, Psalms Food Industries, Exceed Catering, Drew & Jack’s, SoHope Foundation, ST. Luke’s Chapel Butabika, Gonahasa Kitchen, The Women’s Getaway and Lot2545.
Butabika Hospital was established in 1955 and is currently the only National Referral Mental Health Institution in the Country. The Hospital provides specialized care to people with mental illness.
At the same time, it is a teaching hospital for all cadres specializing in Mental Health ranging from nursing cadre to Postgraduate students.
The Hospital also provides Out-patient services to the people from the surrounding area.
Butabika Hospital is about 10 km East of Kampala City and it is the second biggest Hospital in Uganda with a bed capacity of 550, though the number often range between 750 -780.
Presently, super specialized services have started in the areas of Alcohol/Drug abuse, Psycho-trauma and Child and Adolescent mental health care.