Students Under Distress Over Parents’ Mental illness

BY S KWAGALA: Students have reported to be under mental distress stemming from ‘mentally ill’ parents. The numerous tales from students indicate that their parents have failed to manage their own mental health which has affected their children in the long run.

According to statistics, it is believed that 1 in 4 people suffer from mental illness. During a mental health sensitization meeting for students at Wanyange Girls School on Sunday, a number shared incidents of abuse at home as a result of their Parents’ distress. The sensitization was conducted by a non-profit Government Organization- Save The Minds Uganda-STMU.

Student Tales
Nalugwa Martha (not real name), a student in senior two reported continual sadness over her parents who fight now and again and bring shame to her. “I feel embarrassed, even in public the moment one angers the other they just begin fighting there.”

Martha’s distress started off with such ordeals which progressed when her parents separated. As if that was not enough, this student shares a roof with her mother who expresses moments of depression which even cost her job.

Martha says her parent torments with verbal abuse, physical at times because sometimes she gets uncontrollable anger towards her children.

As a result of this, Martha mentions that she too had picked fighting behavior where she would snap at her friends and beat them up. Thereafter she would feel terribly bad wondering what had come over her. While the fighting has stopped, Martha moves with shame over because people in her home place call her mother mad.

While at school, she cries herself to sleep because she does not understand why her mother does not seek medical assistance, so that she can get back to her parenting role and job.

Martha is just one of many others with similar tales. Another student Akello Judith (not real name) in senior three mentioned that her entire family is conflicted over her and have even expressed doubts on her paternity.

Akello (not real name) who is overwhelmed by the so much conflict and disagreement over her paternity notes that she feels unloved and one that can not comfortably fit in any social space. “No one loves me, no one wants to stay with me. My mother said that she is first working to get enough money then she can stay with me.”

On the other hand, Atuhaire Peace (Not real name), is bothered why her father does not behave as she expects him to. She feels his behavior especially drunkenness and being furious when he comes home is unbecoming. She says; “I do not like him, I hate him because of what he does, and yet he is my father. Every time I think about it, I distance myself from friends because my family is not as happy as theirs.”

Various tales among teenagers who have individual issues to shoulder besides their parents’ baggage. As they say, some have books to attend to but they fail to, others have friends to keep but they fail to because of their sadness, some have siblings to show an example to but they fail because they feel there is so much load over them.

As if that is not enough, when a number were asked if they had any one, they could trust to share such information with, none of the few the counselors interacted with agreed that anyone could be trusted with their plight.

Nevertheless, with a team of over four psychiatrists, the students noted that they had learned how to identify mental stress as well as how to cope with it.

The psychiatrists emphasized that it would be key for the students to speak up through available affordable platforms like toll free lines for counseling as well as meeting pro-bono psychiatrists.

The team from STMU also recommended that schools need to arrange regular Parent Teacher -Children mental health sensitization meetings as these to break the cycle. This was because students spend most of their time with teachers and parents when they go home.

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