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Using Forum Theatre to tackle mental health stigma in Uganda

What happens when you spend 3 days with a diverse group of people who have experience of the impact of mental health in Uganda and then ask them to stage a production in the national theatre with just a few hours of practice?

Sharing Stories and Odd Arts, two organisations that recognise the value of lived experience and the power of sharing with others, took their work in the UK to Kampala to find out how a technique called forum theatre would translate to the Ugandan culture.

Sharing Stories is a collaborative venture between the UK and people services, and communities across Uganda. That meant we took the opportunity to involve groups from beyond the capital, Kampala, so that the event would be richer and learning spread wider. Our UK visitors included both a recently qualified and trainee clinical psychologist, providing an opportunity for them to develop cross cultural skills that can directly contribute to their work. The chance for experts by experience, mental health trainees and practitioners from Uganda and the UK to become involved in unique and innovative projects is a key aspect of our work.

Although working to put on a performance at the national theatre in Kampala was an incredible experience for those who took part as performers and audience, our aspiration was always to support much more. By working together for two more days with the Odd Arts team, we developed skills and concrete plans for further forum theatre events to be run by our members – letting them identify their own themes and develop their own approaches to challenging issues around mental health.

In memory of Emmanuel Mufumba, a shining light in mental health service provision within Uganda and a great friend to everyone in Sharing Stories and Odd Arts. He leaves behind a legacy of passionate support for mental health and he will be sorely missed.