François’ story

I am a 33 year old casual labourer, married with 2 children. I belong to the Kanombe NOUSPR group because I feel comfortable with this group of people and we work together to try and solve our problems and develop ourselves.

 
I have a mental illness which started when I was 16 years old and in secondary school. It was not long after I was sent to boarding school. It came on gradually and I seemed to sink into a strange place that I did not recognize. I lay awake at night time and fell asleep in the day. I awoke some times in the classroom to hear myself talking, but not knowing what the words meant. Sometimes I just repeated what other people had said without having any reason to say that thing. I was confused and did not understand the lessons or what anyone said to me.

 
I stayed away from that school. My mother cared for me and I recovered. But when I returned to school I started to be ill again, just as before except that it was worse. This time I tried to work harder to catch up on the work I had missed and this brought the illness on more quickly. My mother was very caring but we were very poor, and I understood that she could not afford to keep me at school for long so I tried to work hard for her.

 
It was at this stage that the school said I must go to the hospital because they could not wake me up in the mornings. The headmaster knew I had a mental illness and took me to Ndhera hospital. I was admitted and given treatment there for 3 months. I returned to school to finish the term. When I returned to school the next term I became ill almost immediately. My mother then bought me home and I tried to study in a local school, but not for long. When I gave up school altogether I was well for a time but then I had a period like a mad thing when I went onto the streets, where my family could not find me.

 

In 2009, my neighbour Joseph came to me. He had heard about me and explained everything to me, saying NOUSPR could help me. The doctors had said that I must learn to understand the illness and keep taking the medication. Joseph told me that things in my past, the poverty and loss of family and friends in the genocide brought on such illnesses, but if I accepted it and joined this group with others we could work together to live in the community and have lives like other people. This I have found out to be true.

 

I am now a patient expert, with a bicycle and white coat but most of all with an understanding of what it is like to have such an illness. I now help others as Joseph once helped me. I take them to the hospital and talk to their families about them and the illness, saying it is not abnormal and there are people like us who can help them.