Mentalhealth Champion Monday - Meet Sarah Namegabe, founder of Akili HealthCare, DR Congo

November 05, 2018



Since inception in January 2018, The Sitawa Wafula Mental Health Academy has been hard at work to develop the next generation of mental health champions in Africa by providing them with skills, resources and community. Our first cohort finished their official time at the Academy this October and over the coming weeks, we will be highlighting their journeys at the Academy through  on our #MCM -Mentalhealth Champion Mondays Series. 

We start the series with Sarah Namegabe, founder of Akili Health Care - DR Congo. 


TMHA::: Tell us a little about yourself

Sarah:::My name is Sarah Namegabe, I am from Bukavu which is a town in the Eastern part of the Republic Democratic of the Congo. I am a fifth born in a family of seven. I am a clinical psychologist currently doing a masters in Counseling Psychology in Nairobi. 





TMHA::: What drew you to the mental health space?
Sarah:::
My journey started  in 1996 when I was sexually assaulted and a result I started having nightmares, I became so angry and very irritated. I even lost my self-esteem. I spent my teenage years feeling guilty about it and wondering why this had to happen to me. Apart from going to school, I stopped going out or even mingling with other girls. I was feeling as if something within me was missing, which led to my poor performances in school, and in my relationships too. I was always told that I was too dependent on my partners.

All this pain, led me to get interested with Mental Health issues and a strong desire to do research about it. I wanted to know more about people in my country who were living with the same condition as mine. I found out that many people were suffering from mental health related diseases and a major part of them are not even aware of it and they neither know how to deal with their issues nor where to find help. People living with mental health conditions in DR Congo are discriminated, some families are even accused of witchcraft.

Ever since, I have set my heart on how to help them to address their issues. This is the major reason why I decided to study Psychology with hope that I bring my dream to pass.

TMHA::: Watch a 30s clip (below) of Sarah sharing what Day 2 of the Academy's accelerator felt like

 


TMHA::: How did you get to know about The Academy? Sarah::: I first heard about Sitawa Wafula from my ex-boyfriend who told me about Sitawa's blog, "My mind, my funk". I went, googled about it and emailed Sitawa who emailed back. This was the beginning of our network. Then we first met in June 2017. Later on, Sitawa told me about the mental health academy. Then decided to join in January this year.



TMHA::: What was the idea you wanted to work on when you joined The Academy? Sarah::: My idea when I joined was to create a blog that I would use to educate my community (in DR Congo) about mental health, offer free online counseling and tell a positive story about mental health diagnoses.

TMHA::: Are you still working on the same idea (or did it change along the way?) Sarah::: Yes, I am still working on the same idea but I am thinking about extending it to the African level using my Facebook  page. TMHA::: Tell us more about what you are currently working on Sarah::: My platform is called Akili health care - Akili means mind in Swahili which is my mother tongue - and it found online at www.akilihealthcare.com. It aims to educate people about mental health. My vision is (a) DRCongo where people get more information about mental health and support needed. My mission is creating a platform where Congolese could get information and direct each other in other to get information about mental health.



TMHA::: The Academy's curriculum includes a prototyping phase, where you move your idea into a tangible project,  how was that phase for you?

Sarah:::
My prototyping process was quite a bit scary I was wondering if people were going to like it or not but I was able to make it because of the help that I got from Sitawa who was there for me since the beginning. Also working as a team (with the January cohort) pushed me, I felt that I owed it to my team members.


TMHA::: What was the reaction to your project by the targeted audience?
Sarah::: The reaction that I got from the audience was positive and really encouraging. A lot of people got back to me and shared their stories with me. I am getting more and more messages from people asking for advice on where to get counseling and how to do self care.



TMHA::: Any tips for people stuck on the idea stage of their projects and wondering how to venture into prototyping?
Sarah::: I would tell them to go, build and try it. One can't know the value of their ideas without talking about them, going out and trying them. And I can add that each and every idea is important and worth to be spread.

TMHA::: Besides the curriculum based work, what other roles did The Academy play in helping you during the planning and execution of your idea and program?
Sarah:::
The academy taught me to trust my capacities and to have confidence in my ideas. I think this was the most important thing that I've learnt from this program.



TMHA::: Your time at The Academy has come to an end, what can you say are your best moments?
Sarah:::
My best moments at The Academy were during the story telling sessions, every time when we were meeting as a class and the check up calls even though they were a bit stressful (laugh). Receiving the check up calls pushed me to work hard on my project. I think that I still need them, that is why I've decided to consider the consultancy opportunity.

TMHA::: What should we expect to see from you in the near future?
Sarah::: This question is a bit tricky(smile). I am going to give my best to make a positive change in the mental health field in Africa.
TMHA::: Any last words?
Sarah:::I would like to invite people to join us in the mental health advocacy field because we need your help. You don't need to be a psychologist to work in this field or to advocate about this mater. Everyone can participate. People need to know that their mental health is as important as their physical health. They also need to learn how to take care of their mental health.

You can reach Sarah on;
Facebook/LinkedIn Sarah Namegabe
Instagram: @Akili_HealthCare
Twitter: @AkiliHealthCare





Head out to AkiliHealthCare.com (turn your french translator on) to read a #worldmentalhealthday post by one of my students - Sarah (@akili_healthcare) from DR Congo When she joined my academy, she wanted to create a platform through which she can share #mentalhealth information in a way that is interactive and speaks to people in her country. After a couple of sessions, she set up a blog and has so far done amazing work not just with the posts but also in getting people the support they need. Show her some love by turning on your french translator and reading her blog posts - then comment, share and subscribe (in that order) To learn more about my academy - The Sitawa Wafula Mental Health Academy (#tmhabysitawa) which provides skills, resources & community to amazing people like Sarah so that they can build thriving #mentalhealth programs, head out to http://www.thementalhealthacademy.org #mentalhealthinafrica #tmhabysitawa
A post shared by Sitawa Wafula (@sitawawafula) on


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