Utilizing the Wayo-Nero (“Aunt-Uncle”) Strategy as a Vehicle for Improving Access to Mental Health Services in Post-conflict Northern Uganda: Effectively Bridging Indigenous/Traditional and Modern/Biomedical Therapy Systems

This project set out to address the critical mental health needs of persons suffering from the most common mental health problems in post-conflict districts of Gulu, Amuru, and Nwoya, in Northern Uganda.  
The greatest problem was two-fold: (1) Resistance on the part of (the traditional) community to help sick family members to access the care offered in modern clinical settings; and at the same time, (2) Modern clinicians (that is, biomedically trained mental health professionals) are suspicious of what traditional healers offer. As thus, this project was designed to overcome the social-cultural differences between these often opposing therapeutic systems.  This was accomplished through the creation of an innovative sociocultural “bridge” (Wayo – Nero social institution) that permitted more effective care in response to these common mental health problems. 

This was project was funded by Grand Challenges, Canada and has the following objectives; To increase access to care and utilization of mental health services for people with common mental illnesses (depression, PTSD, suicide behavior and anxiety disorders). The study also sought to reduce stigma among people with mental illnesses and their families, and to asess the effectiveness of Wayo-Nero model in enhancing access to and utilization of mental health services
Lessons learnt from this study were; Indigenous institutions can be instrumental in increasing access to mental health services to under-served populations. And 2) Indigenous institutions facilitates a) identification of new cases b) streamlining referral c) support to families of people with mental illness, and  d) reducing stigma.