Study Abroad

Interview: photojournalist and author robin hammond

Uganda is a low-income country with an estimate population of 32 million. It spends only 0.7% of their total health budget on mental health. This compares greatly to the 10% of the health budget in the UK.
Northern Uganda has one of the world’s highest rates of mental illness. A survey conducted by a team of British and Uganda psychiatrists established that the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder in northern Uganda is the highest that has ever been recorded anywhere else in the world.
Around 20% of the population in Uganda suffer from some form of mental illness, with depression being one of the most common. Yet With a population of 32 million, the country only has 32 psychiatrists.

Studies conducted on the mental health system in Uganda suggest that the main challenge is that health workers do not want to specialise in psychiatry, due to the stigma associated with mental illness.

Robin Hammond, a photojournalist and author of the book Commend, traveled to various countries in Africa to explore this issue. Campus spoke to Robin to get an insight into the crisis that he witnessed first-hand.

“I started in south Sudan then I went to Uganda, Somalia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Nigeria. In a lot of these places they are coming out of conflicts, or displacement, or corruption and the default treatments seem to be incarceration or immobilization, which means that people are either tied up with chains or ropes.”

“Often these individuals are put in institutions where they are literally like prisoners. Some are put in asylums or mental health facilities where they are given little mental health treatments and just locked away.”

Instead of adequately treating illness, in many cases these “solutions” only exacerbate the problem via abuse, discrimination, and neglect.
Condemned is an extraordinary culmination of what has become an important passion for Hammond, who believes that the media rarely depicts, “the long-term impacts of war, famine, and displacement.”
Hammond continued to comment on the situation he witnessed, “After 12 years of documenting human rights issues I’ve never come across a greater assault on human dignity. These people are unseen and therefore their suffering is ignored. “
Hammond uses the most effective way possible in outlining how serious of an issue this is by giving first hand documentation by use of photographs. His photography makes a huge impact as the striking images of the patients tied up outline how real and vivid this issue really is.
“Making people aware is the first step. Having an audience connect to the issue is the next. I hope the stories of the people in the photos and the images themselves, will stimulate the connection. From that, I hope action will follow.”

Photo: Robin Hammond