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Mental Health Rehab from Hell – Part V

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

After my Counsellor Martin Githaiga sexually violated me, physically assaulted me, and intimidated me to not pursue the charges described in the previous parts of my testimony by ransoming my journalistic notes, he was neither fired nor suspended.

Between the time of the incidents and when my family finally got me out of the program, I was made to interface with him a total of thirty six times.

Martin Githaiga slept in the same house with us the female patients. I don’t know why but such was the case. At the end of the program, I was the only female patient left and for a week, I slept with my bed pulled up against the door, genuinely fearing what he might do in retaliation.

I was a publicly suicidal patient. I knew it wasn’t beyond him to harm me and pass it off as a suicide. I was fighting for my work and fearing for my life, with no visible support from the center’s management to check this man’s sick behaviour. I didn’t get my work back, but I’m grateful that I left with my life.

We want help for our loved ones, and many times we do not know where to go to get it. Our generation is more socially and politically aware of mental health matters, more than our parents were. Even then, we are not beyond deceit, and sometimes we find ourselves bound in elaborate moneymaking schemes passing themselves off as having the solutions we seek desperately and urgently.

We must know, when we make decisions about where our people end up, the difference between the help they so need, and the help that is before us. Those two occurrences must never be used interchangeably.

All the above is well and agreed.

But how does one know truly what the true nature is of the help presenting before them? Here are a few quick guide notes (this list is by no means exhaustive):

  1. The facility must have an open-door policy, patient consent being supreme, or must state very clearly what their exceptions to this rule are (the exception usually only being in a lifesaving situation where consent is deferred to a secondary party).
  2. External communication in phone calls and visitations must be freely given to patients, including the right to call law enforcement in a situation where they feel genuinely threatened or severely aggrieved.
  3. Nutrition must be adequate, balanced, and of high quality, incorporating fruits and vegetables at every meal. Food must never be used as a tool for punishment or to enforce “discipline”.
  4. Patients, unless out of their right mind, must retain the right to decline medications that aren’t lifesaving.
  5. Any rehabilitation facility falls under medical care and must have a full-time Physician, Psychiatrist, Psychologists, and a nurse, all within a reasonable ratio to the number of patients admitted at any given time.
  6. Minimum therapy hours for an inpatient must be no less than 3 hours per week, with a qualified professional (Counsellor, Psychologist, or Psychiatrist).
  7. The center must be regulated by the government, through the Ministry of Health, and must have proof of regular inspections by relevant Ministry officials.
  8. Ground space as a ratio to patient numbers must not fall below four square feet per patient. Exercise grounds must be provided.
  9. If animals such as dogs or cats are present at the facility, the center must bear relevant licencing and inspection certificates from relevant government authorities.
  10. Overall treatment durations must make sense. For example, holding a patient as an inpatient for three months over marijuana use of three months is evidently excessive.
  11. Monthly treatment costs must not vary unreasonably with the costs of similar government facilities. (Do due diligence!)
  12. All staff, including support staff such as guards and cleaners, must undergo regular mental health care and management training.
  13. Believe the people who are getting treatment in these centers. Due diligence at the beginning is extremely important, and when your loved ones inform you that a place is bad for them after they have tried it, BELIEVE THEM!
  14. Ask about their expertise. An addiction center has no business accepting a trauma patient, for instance.
  15. Ask them bluntly if Martin Githaiga, a Kenyan national (for whom it is my greatest hope that he gets court martialled and deported) works there. If he does, go in the opposite direction.
  16. If possible, don’t let it be the Africa Retreat Centre.
  17. Remember, there’s a difference between the help you need for your loved ones and the help that is good for them. Keep your loved ones safe!

*** End of Part IV ***

We decided to publish Desire’s testimony, in five parts, 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.”

7 responses to “Mental Health Rehab from Hell – Part V”

  1. Omg! This sounds like a horror movie! Any patient regardless of their status or ailment must be treated with dignity, empathy and compassion. An infringement on the human rights of patients is completely unacceptable. The deprivation of food and external communication especially with family is criminal. Am so angry!


    • And, sadly, she is only one among many who have suffered and or a suffering through Uganda’s unregulated health services sector. We were shocked reading that when she attempted suicide by glass they denied her treatment? Who does that?


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