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Mental Health Rehab from Hell – Part I

Ms. Desire Lavigne Karakire’s testimony, shared on her facebook wall on 11th July 2020

We pulled up into the gate and my sister’s kids came running behind the car to meet us. I pushed open the passenger door. The little one jumped into my lap. I held her head into my chest affectionately, unable to voice my gladness to see her past the giant lump that sat unmoving in my throat.

I was angry. At my sister Stella who drove the car to pick me up, and the family that had kept me locked up in arguably the worst rehabilitation facility for sixty two days in the first place.

“We thought we were doing the best thing for you,” Stella had defended when we had discussed the subject of my displeasure before. “We want you to be happy. There’s no way we could have kept you there if we knew you were being mistreated,” she had added, just before I broke down in tears at the whole affair.

Two months ago I was drudging through a nasty dark depression. I had attempted to take my life numerous times, and I was teetering on the verge of succeeding. My family was at a loss, fearing to lose me and not knowing at all how to help me.

Hope appeared, via a Nakasero Hospital Psychiatrist who was seeing me at the time. He recommended an elite rehabilitation center where I was to go and spend one month in residential treatment.

We arrived at the Africa Retreat Centre (ARC) on a Thursday, escorted by Stella, my brother Edgar and his wife, a friend from my time with the military in Somalia, and a Nakasero Hospital nurse. The center’s Head of Clinical Counselling and their nurse received and admitted me.

It wasn’t long before orientation was over and the experience began to come apart threatening to take everyone with it.

The facility was located at the edge of the city, in Bukoto, just shortly after Oryx petrol station on the Kabira Road. A triple block of structures housed in two separate gates, one where the girls resided and the other where the boys did and where we spent all of our days.

In the first ten days, the treatment was so unbearable I attempted suicide nine separate times, preferring to be dead than to be in this place. When all my methods didn’t work, I pulled out the final stop in the toolkit: glass. I would swallow enough of it at bedtime, and surely I would be dead long before dawn.

It didn’t work. I was still alive when I woke up that morning.

*** END OF PART I ***

We decided to publish Desire’s testimony in the hope that it will be read by those with mental ill-health and who are searching for the right care so that they and their loved ones may make informed decisions.

Sharing of Desire’s testimony is in line with our empirical evidence based advocacy work. We wish for her testimony to come to the attention of duty bearers within civil society and as well as government departments.

We desire that her testimony will provoke action, including but not limited to, investigation of mental healthcare service providers; ensuring that they do right by their patients; and ensure that a valid mental healthcare policy is in place and that it is fully implemented and enforced.


It is important to share that the African Retreat Center (ARC) did respond to Desire’s testimony thus:

A response which Desire characterized as: “the last kicks of a dying horse.”

5 responses to “Mental Health Rehab from Hell – Part I”

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