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Ethiopian nurse challenges mental health stigma in Africa

TACKLING STIGMAS: Ledet Muleta

AN ETHIOPIAN nurse is trying to raise $30,000 (£23k) to help in the final stages of making a film to address the stigmas around mental illness in Africa.

Ledet Muleta, a 37-year-old Ethiopian-born nurse who now lives in Washington, DC, has travelled across the African diaspora to tackle the disparities in mental health care and worked to combat the stigmas that surround it.

Her work eventually inspired her to launch the non-profit organisation Medixaa Health Services, which aims to fight against the stigmatisation of mental illness across the continent.

Through her organisation, Muleta created Chula, a film project that chronicles one young Ethiopian woman’s battle with bipolar disorder and her experience living in Africa among a family that seemingly fails to understand the serious impact of her mental illness.

Muleta believes the young woman’s story in the film reflects the life of millions of others on the continent who don’t receive adequate attention or aid in regards to the mental heath issues they face. Because of this, she has launched a Kickstarter campaign that aims to raise money to fund the full making of the film which is almost done and ready to be marketed.

So far, the film has raised more than $21,000 of its $30,000 target.

When complete, Muleta said Chula will help to generate more awareness around what African families can, and should, do to better address the needs of mental health patients.

Chula arose from my experience working as a psychiatric nurse in the Washington metropolitan area in addition to my travels across the continent," she told The Huffington Post.

"I witnessed wide disparities in the utilisation of mental health services particularly among the African diaspora and other minority/immigrant communities. When I visited countries in Africa ― Liberia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Uganda and Egypt ― the use of services or rather shall I say the recognition of mental illness was minimal."

Muleta added: "That, in combination with the rising substance abuse on the continent ― Africa is becoming an emerging and major market for narcotics typically found in the West (i.e. cocaine )― and the stigmatisation of mental illness persuaded me to write the script for Chula.

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