Occupational Therapy in Mental Health in Uganda – Research Project.
A collaborative project between UAOT (Ugandan Occupational Therapy Association) and OT Frontiers. 2012
This 6 month project was completed.
The project involved a 6 month nationwide research project, working with a group of Ugandan occupational therapists to explore how best to define and promote the role of occupational therapy in mental health in Uganda. The research collected data from occupational therapists, service users and key stakeholders in mental health. The end result of the research was a position statement defining the unique role of occupational therapy in mental health.
The project aimed to build the foundations for making occupational therapy in mental health in
Ugandamore visible; enhancing others’ awareness, knowledge, and respect for the profession, and developing occupational therapists’ professional confidence. The document aimed to clearly and proudly articulate the unique role and the positive outcomes associated with occupational therapy in mental health.
The position paper:
The document has been shared with all occupational therapists in Uganda (via email), and all occupational therapists and their managers at national and regional level hospitals with mental health wards (via post). The document was also shared with the key officials in the Ministry of Health, the OT training school and mental health non-government organisations (NGOs) operating in Uganda.
The document provides brief and concise comments on the following:
of mental health problems on function; the need for occupational therapy
unique role of occupational therapy in mental health
benefits of occupational therapy in mental health
value of occupation to mental health and wellbeing
role of occupational therapy in health promotion
role of occupational therapy in addressing stigma
role of occupational therapy in addressing the poverty associated with mental
The document also includes recommendations to further develop the role of occupational therapy in mental health in Uganda. There are specific recommendations for occupational therapists, for UAOT and for hospital managers and the Ministry of Health.
Below are some extracts from the document:
The unique role of occupational therapy in mental health:
Occupational therapists assess the occupational performance of individuals with mental health problems to identify their individual functional needs.
In order to meet the identified functional needs of the individual, occupational therapists in Uganda use meaningful and purposeful activities as the therapeutic medium to focus on developing an individual’s skills and abilities, to promote recovery and improve independence and self reliance for successful community re-integration.
Occupation is used as a type of medicine for treating, managing and overcoming function impairments. Carefully selected activities can be used to:
· Improve cognitive function (concentration, problem solving skills)
· Boost motivation and energy levels
· Improve self esteem and self identity
· Promote social skills and appropriate social behaviours
· Manage mood and distressing symptoms
The value of occupation to mental health and wellbeing:
Occupation is vital for our health as individuals. Through what we do, we develop skills, interact with others and meet basic vital needs. Engagement in occupation also gives us structure, value and meaning to our lives as well as a sense of self esteem, belonging and achievement. Through occupations we are able to realise our potential. Health and wellbeing are supported by engagement in a balanced range of occupations that are chosen and valued by the individual. If a person is deprived of or has access to only a limited range of occupations, due to illness or social factors, his or her mental health will suffer.
The role of occupational therapy in addressing the poverty associated with mental illness:
Occupational therapy develops, restores and promotes life skills required for overcoming poverty through vocational skills training and income generating activities. The engagement in such activities creates opportunities for the development of problem solving skills, improves innovativeness, fosters a sense of worthiness, removes barriers and enables individuals to tap into hidden talents and unutilised resources. This facilitates self reliance and independence, thus reducing the burden of an individual’s poverty on the family and community.
“Being encouraged to take on activities helps to improve self worth and promotes recovery and also helps to break down the barrier of disability and dependence... it stops people looking at you like you are worthless.”
Quote from a service user surveyed in the research