Atukunda started a mental health service user-led community-based organisation that mobilises people with mental health challenges, mental health providers, career mental health professionals and other professionals to care for these patients
Joseph Atukunda, an accountant by profession, recently received a vocational service award.
The award was handed over to him by members of the Rotary Club of Kampala West at Kampala Club.
This was in recognition for his passion in raising mental health awareness and willingness to redeem people that have suffered mental illness from stigma and discrimination.
In October 2009, Atukunda started an organisation known as Heart Sounds Uganda based at Butabika National Referral hospital.
This is a mental health service user-led community-based organisation that mobilises people with mental health challenges, mental health providers, career mental health professionals and other professionals to care for these patients.
The well-wishers provide peer support and raise awareness on mental health, advocate for people with psycho-social and mental disability, and also reduce community stigma and discrimination as well as empower people who suffer from mental illness to live productive lives after recovery.
"Currently, the organisation is working with over 200 members that suffered from mental illness and depression and are in recovery process. We train them to make crafts works like beads made out of paper, which they sell to earn some money to take care of themselves," he said.
He said due to stigma and discrimination, most remembers of the organisation were abandoned by their families, relatives and friends after suffering from mental disorder.
"Stigma and discrimination among people affected with mental health disorder is still real and true. It is a serious problem that needs effective efforts of different stakeholders to change people's mind-set towards people with this disorder. These patients can recover and live meaningful and productive lives, and I am happy that my efforts geared towards reducing stigma have been recognised," he added.
Margaret Sekaggya, executive director, the Human Rights Centre Uganda, also a member of Rotary Club of Kampala West said each year, the group gives out an award to an understanding Ugandan who contributes positively to the betterment of Ugandans.
Sekaggya said; "Atukunda is the best candidate for the award because of his passion to see that people who have suffered from mental illness are not stigmatised and discriminated against. He has talked about mental health on TVs and social media and has also been recognised at the International for a.
In 1988 while in form six at King's College Budo, Kahigiriza got his first attack of psychosis (refers to an abnormal condition of the mind described as involving a "loss of contact with reality) just before sitting for Physics, Chemistry and Biology(PCB) exams, and dropped out.
Though his condition improved, he still undergoes treatment at Mulago hospital every month to keep the condition (psychosis) and its effects under control.