Kasule’s journey of overcoming suicide

Kasule and his partners plan to organise an awareness run, encouraging conversations about mental health challenges and the importance of seeking help. PHOTO | GEORGE KATONGOLE

What you need to know:

  • When he travelled to Australia to study, Stuart Raymond Kasule did not know he would end up alone and depressed. His struggles to earn enough money to pay for his education and also take care of his family back home led to mental health issues that he would not have overcome without the assistance of mental health advocates in Australia. Now in a better place, he is fighting to see that everyone is able to get the same help he was given.

In Uganda, the expectation for men to adhere to the notion of "boys don't cry" persists even in the face of challenging situations.

Men are conditioned to embody toughness, suppressing emotions and avoiding vulnerability. These entrenched masculine norms contribute to an increased vulnerability to mental health issues among men.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the rate of suicide among males is twice that in females. This is partly attributed to the reluctance of males to seek mental health treatment, influenced by internalised expectations surrounding "masculine behaviour." Traditional and institutionalised beliefs lead men to employ defense mechanisms, denying their mental health challenges.

Saved by grace

Stuart Raymond Kasule, a mental health and suicide prevention expert, shares his personal journey of overcoming financial struggles while living in Australia. 

“I travelled to Australia as an international student and would pay more than $10,000 (about Shs38m) a semester, yet students are only allowed to work 20 hours. So, In order to earn money to pay my school dues, I had to look for an under-the-table job,” says Kasule.

As many other foreign students, Kasule was under a lot of pressure since he not only had to study and pass his examinations, but had to work and save enough money to send back home to support his family. Therefore, he would work in a restaurant in the evening and during the day, he would study.

“I started getting depressed when I realised I was all alone. I had travelled to Australia by myself and did not know anyone there. This was especially hard because I knew I had no one to depend on or ask for help,” he says.

Kasule highlights the impact of cultural backgrounds on mental health conversations.

"I was struggling and my then-girlfriend kept asking me about my mental health. But because I come from an African background, I did not want to even entertain that I might have an issue or ask for help," Kasule recalls. 

Fortunately, his life was saved by an Australian pastoral care officer, prompting Kasule to become an advocate for mental health.

"A conversation could save a life. We should be talking about mental health just as people talk about the flu. I want to be a positive role model and show others that life gets better, even if you are in so much pain and not thinking clearly at the moment. I have been there and could not face life," Kasule says.

Having survived his own struggles, Kasule is now actively involved in suicide prevention efforts. He advocates for open conversations about mental health and collaborates with organisations such as LivingWorks Australia, a global organisation specialising in suicide prevention.

His main aim is to provide suicide prevention training programmes. He pursued studies in disability, traumatic brain injuries, dementia, autism, and Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) through TAFE, the University of Melbourne and the University of Tasmania, acquiring knowledge to assist others.

Additionally, Kasule underwent suicide prevention training with LivingWorks Australia.

LivingWorks offers the safeTalk model, a training programme that enhances people's alertness to signs of suicide and improves their ability to connect individuals with additional help.

The ‘safeTalk' programme functions as a suicide prevention skills workshop, establishing a safety network for individuals in crisis. It provides participants with the necessary skills to identify when someone is contemplating suicide and respond effectively to ensure their safety.

Getting to work

Kasule, through his organisation 'Hope for Life Uganda,' aims to reduce suicide rates and advocate for the decriminalisation of suicide in Uganda.  Suicide remains a crime in Uganda and in at least 17 other nations.

In partnership with LivingWorks, Kasule hopes to conduct a pilot programme in Mbale Town in eastern Uganda where he hopes to train people in suicide prevention.

In his vision, Kasule wants to see suicide prevention training for all clinicians, school children, universities, the army and police. He also foresees a future with a better call centre where people can contact a counsellor and more language inclusivity in interventions. 

And with one person lost to suicide every 40 seconds globally and 20 attempting it, according to the World Health Organisation, Kasule wants immediate action.


Kasule, in partnership with other organisations is working towards breaking the stigma surrounding mental health in Uganda. They advocate for comprehensive awareness campaigns and education, aiming to integrate mental health discussions at all levels of society.

Although suicide is responsible for about 800,000 deaths annually, in Uganda, no known study has determined the suicide rate.

“The absence of data in homes, communities and at the national level creates the absence of models to use in terms of engagement. That is why Stuart and I are calling for partners to start this conversation,” he says.

The first step in addressing mental health issues, researchers say, is expanding general awareness and education around the topic itself. Community-based programmes can help counter risk factors for mental health problems.

Kasule suggests breaking down the stigma through campaigns that make seeking help a sign of strength and a necessary part of caring for one’s overall health.

“It is hard for the health giver to integrate something they do not understand since some of them are equally victims of the same illness. Because they cannot understand the illness at the moment, they do not know how to integrate it,” he adds.

In their quest, Kasule and his partners plan to organise an awareness run, encouraging conversations about mental health challenges and the importance of seeking help.

The ultimate goal is to implement policies and strategies that support a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention.