More than 4000 Ugandans die of suicide each year. Uganda ranks the 4th country in Africa and 17th worldwide with highest suicide rates. The high unemployment rate of about 83% and thus a general lack of perspective is often considered as a possible trigger. However, other essential risk factors are a lack of aid programmes, a lack of social support as well as a general lack of sympathy for mental illnesses. Also, suicidal thoughts and behaviors are heavily stigmatized in Ugandan society. Additionally, people attempting suicide will face an imprisonment for up to two years.
We aim for a suicide free generation with emotionally strong and informed citizens who can freely seek for help. It was in 2016 when we therefore founded Lifesavers’ Strides which follows a preventive approach. Thus, our programme mainly operates in secondary schools. We carry out sensitization campaigns on suicide and mental health and train students with basic life coaching skills to enable them to support each other emotionally through active listening. In addition to the peer-coaching, we conduct group sessions to promote both self-esteem as well as social skills.
Being an orphan, Monica Oweneema, the founder of Lifesavers’ Strides, did not get the privilege of parental love or a strong emotional background. During her teenage years she became a victim of bullying. For a long time, she felt rejected and got depressed. Finally, she attempted suicide twice since she neither saw the possibility to freely express her emotions nor to receive any social support. As she happened to read Jack Canfield’s book “Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul” a turning point in her life was marked. The book features stories of young people expressing their pains and fears. On the strength of this, Monica started to keep a diary where she would let go of her anger and sadness. Furthermore, she gradually started to confide in a friend.
After all, the Social Innovation Academy (SINA) offered her the possibility to turn her fateful life story into a social startup in order to support other affected persons. SINA offers a unique learning environment to marginalized youth, equipping them with the prerequisites to become successful social entrepreneurs and founders. Scholars are enabled and intrinsically motivated to turn the challenges of their difficult past into entrepreneurial opportunities.
Since Lifesavers’ Strides’ inception we have worked with several schools in Mpigi, Uganda, training up to 50 peer coaches and impacting up to 500 lives.
We will invest financial benefits in carrying out suicide and mental health awareness campaigns, peer-coaching trainings as well as group trainings in secondary schools nationwide.
Together we can make the world a better and healthier place!