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THE FIREPLACE PROJECT: THE TAALA FOUNDATION ON MISSION TO SALVAGE MENTAL HEALTH IN UGANDA’S LGBTI COMMUNITY

The Taala Foundation on Friday 28th August 20202 launched a report from The Taala Fireplace (TFP). The report was launched virtually through their Facebook page. This report titled Curving Out a New Meaning of Happiness at The Taala Fireplace focuses on the use of inter personal therapy for groups (IPT-G) as an intervention to address issues on mental health and wellness, especially depression, among LGBTI+ persons in Uganda.

Kuchu Times caught up with both Directors of Taala Foundation, Noah Mirembe and Severus Owamparo to probe further into the essence of the TFP report and relevance of this project to Uganda's LGBTI+ community.

You can download a copy of the report here

Click to access Gender-and-Sexual-Diverse-Persons.pdf

KT:  Can you please give us a brief background on the TFP report?

Severus: The TFP report speaks to the findings form The Taala Fireplace, a mental health pilot program that was run by the Taala Foundation between May 2019 and July 2020. The report highlights some of the issues that were presented before the intervention, what occurred during and the aftermath of the intervention.

KT: What inspired this project?

Noah: The project was inspired by years of community engagement and recent scholarly and community research which repeatedly pointed to the impact of stigma, violence, and social isolation faced by the LGBT community in Uganda. Of course, health issues and mental health in particular is a concern for the Ugandan population generally and it is critical that community interventions be expanded to ensure that individuals have access to support at the grassroots level. This is why the TFP focuses on everyday community members and prioritizes individual wellness as a path to community well being.

KT: We are all aware that mental health is one of our community's biggest challenges and threats, yet it is still coyly addressed or ignored altogether, how will this new space (fire place) be different?

Severus: The TFP is different because of its focus on enhancing mental health and integrating wellness while attaining measurable impact. Individuals have to do the work and show an individual investment in their own growth. Unlike other wellness interventions that offer one off responses, the TFP engages the individual in a journey of self-reflection and equips the individuals with tools to take charge of their well being.  Our proudest moment is receiving individuals each week, understanding the difficulties involved for people to choose therapy and to commit to it when external factors have not necessarily changed. That's a form of resilience that sets this community apart and fuels our passion to provide an ethically informed support when it is needed.

KT: How do you hope this project as a whole will impact the community?

Noah: We hope this intervention will strengthen individual resilience and help demonstrate the community’s willingness to lead by example. The LGBT community are often seen as outliers who have no interest in assimilation, but taking charge of their well being shows that the community is hungry to participate as full healthy citizens within their community. We hope that the work will also inspire more community interventions aimed at promoting overall well being.

KT: What are some of the most appalling discoveries you've made about the mental health state within the community and how can they be addressed?

Noah: The most appalling discovery has been the interlinkage that violence and discrimination have on the individuals we engage with. A significant number of LGBT people we engage with report being discriminated on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation or gender and have faced some sort of actual or threatened physical, sexual, or psychological violence which negatively impacts individual’s health and collective wellbeing. This is true across class and gender lines, which is a concern for us.

Severus: Access to ethical health care services for these individuals is scarce and yet the need is very high. Some of issues must be dealt with at a social and state level as they are very problematic and systemic.

KT: Anything else that you would like to share?

Severus: The right to health is a major factor in how people enjoy their right to life with dignity. We are keen to engage with other communities, organizations, and state agencies working to improve these areas in real and tangible ways that promote dignity.