29 November 2012

Rwanda's Mental Health Experience Teaches Lessons - Experts

Mental health professionals have commended Rwanda's experience in rehabilitating mental health and constructing social ties after the horrendous experience of the Genocide.

"Rwanda has really a very interesting experience in forming links between persons," said Professor Serban Ionescu from Université Paris 8, France.

He confirmed that what Rwanda has done with religious associations, reconciliation and political approach has made citizens and society resilient. The experience, he observed, can serve as a model for other post-conflict countries.

Serban made the remarks on Thursday at the third international conference on mental health. The two-day conference is taking place in Kigali under theme "Mass violence, mental rehabilitation and reconstruction of social ties."

The annual conference brings together health ministries' officials from the Great Lakes Region, as well as experts from the rest of the world. "This region has almost similar problems related to mental health; that is why we want to learn from each other and exchange views on what needs to be strengthened," explained Nancy Claire Misago, the acting director of the mental health division at the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC).

According to Health Minister Agnes Binagwaho, construction of social ties is prerequisite to mental health treatment when it comes to any society that has undergone violence resulting in trauma. She pointed out that Rwanda has suffered chronic trauma since colonial and post-colonial times where parts of the population experienced discrimination that culminated in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.

"When it comes to mental rehabilitation, the individual approach is very important but also there needs to be a good social environment," she pointed out, adding that the political, social and individual approaches played a great role in reconciliation.

The conference is focusing on how to build social ties by alleviating some of the mental health issues such as depression, which was the theme of this year's world mental health day. Experts note that the construction of social ties is not only needed in post-conflict countries, but also in areas facing economic crisis where people may lose their jobs and suffer from mental health issues due to poor conditions of life.

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