Skip to main content
Esther Suubi talking to young people at TRIUMPH.

News

Speaking Up About Mental Health

Play audio version

Meet DJP Fellow Esther Suubi

June 27, 2021

Esther Suubi is an educator and advocate for those with psychosocial disabilities, especially in her home country of Uganda. Born in a small town near Kampala, she found herself battling depression in her adolescence in a country where those with psychosocial disabilities are often considered incapable and unable to amount to anything in society. Undeterred by Uganda’s views, Suubi’s family provided her with all the care they could, which led her to Triumph Uganda Mental Health Support and Recovery Program (TRIUMPH) in Jinja. TRIUMPH’s mission is to “contribute to the process of enhancing recovery, building resilience and investing in social networks for inclusion of persons with psychosocial disabilities.” At TRIUMPH, Suubi was welcomed with open arms, receiving the support she needed.

Now, as a graduate of Uganda Christian University Mukono with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication, she has continued pushing to destigmatize psychosocial disabilities with her work at TRIUMPH, where she serves as a self-advocate in peer education and communications, focusing on young women and adolescent girls. When Suubi is not leading sessions and training others, she is writing and proposing policies about mental health and sexual reproductive rights to key stakeholders in Uganda. Most recently, last November she presented a policy paper on access to sexual and reproductive health rights and services for adolescent girls and young women with psychosocial disabilities.

I decided to stand up and fight for my fellow girls and young women by speaking up so that we are heard.

Esther Suubi

With a strong interest in journalism, digital media, and social change, Suubi eagerly applied to participate in the Disability Justice Project’s fellowship program to gain one-on-one mentorship focused on enhancing her storytelling skills to benefit her work at TRIUMPH and beyond. Her goal is to build a personal social media following and campaign to raise awareness of the mental health disparities in Uganda and around the world. “I decided to stand up and fight for my fellow girls and young women by speaking up so that we are heard,” she says. “Many girls and young women are out there suffering and can’t speak up, but it won’t keep me silent.” Suubi continues, “As a mental health advocate…I want to see how I can use my social media handles…to be a representative out there.” The fellowship program will give her access to resources and mentorship that she has not had before, and Suubi is hoping she will be able to utilize social media and documentary-style videos to get her message out.

Suubi has deep love and passion for the work she is doing and will take on with the fellowship. With her expanded social media presence and the knowledge she gains from the Disability Justice Project, she is hoping to one day be the founder and director of her own organization, where she can connect with companies and other organizations about psychosocial disabilities and reiterate to them what she already knows to be true: persons with disabilities are able to do the work and enact change when given the chance.

News From the Global Frontlines of Disability Justice

A photo montage of inaccessible voting places across the US.

Barriers to the Ballot

Despite legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act, barriers at the polls still hinder — and often prevent — people with disabilities from voting. New restrictive laws in some states, such as criminalizing assistance with voting, exacerbate these issues. Advocacy groups continue to fight for improved accessibility and increased voter turnout among disabled individuals, emphasizing the need for multiple voting options to accommodate diverse needs. ““Of course, we want to vote,” says Claire Stanley with the American Council of the Blind, “but if you can’t, you can’t.”

Read more about Barriers to the Ballot

A collage of photos showing inaccessible polling stations.

Democracy Denied

In 2024, a record number of voters worldwide will head to the polls, but many disabled individuals still face significant barriers. In India, inaccessible electronic voting machines and polling stations hinder the ability of disabled voters to cast their ballots independently. Despite legal protections and efforts to improve accessibility, systemic issues continue to prevent many from fully participating in the world’s largest democracy. “All across India, the perception of having made a place accessible,” says Vaishnavi Jayakumar of Disability Rights Alliance, “is to put a decent ramp at the entrance and some form of quasi-accessible toilet.”

Read more about Democracy Denied

An illustration of DJP fellow Esther Suubbi and some of her peers.

Triumph Over Despair

DJP Fellow Esther Suubi shares her journey of finding purpose in supporting others with psychosocial disabilities. She explores the transformative power of peer support and her evolution to becoming an advocate for mental health. “Whenever I see people back on their feet and thriving, they encourage me to continue supporting others so that I don’t leave anyone behind,” she says. “It is a process that is sometimes challenging, but it also helps me to learn, unlearn, and relearn new ways that I can support someone – and myself.”

Read more about Triumph Over Despair

Daniel Mushimiyimana from the Rwanda Union of the Blind, sits in a row of chairs at a conference.

‘Our Vote Matters’

As Rwanda prepares for its presidential elections, voices like Daniel Mushimiyimana’s have a powerful message: every vote counts, including those of citizens with disabilities. Despite legal frameworks like the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, challenges persist in translating these into practical, accessible voting experiences for over 446,453 Rwandans with disabilities. To cast a vote, blind people need to take a sighted relative to read the ballot. An electoral committee member must be present, violating the blind person’s voting privacy. “We want that to change in these coming elections,” says Mushimiyimana.

Read more about ‘Our Vote Matters’

Srijana KC smiles at the camera. She has long dark hair and is wearing a red scarf and green cardigan sweater.

Voices Unsilenced

Often dismissed as a personal concern, mental health is a societal issue, according to Srijana KC, who works as a psychosocial counselor for the Nepali organization KOSHISH. KC’s own history includes a seizure disorder, which resulted in mental health challenges. She faced prejudice in both educational settings and the workplace, which pushed her towards becoming a street vendor to afford her medications. Now with KOSHISH, she coordinates peer support gatherings in different parts of Nepal. “It is crucial to instill hope in society, recognizing that individuals with psychosocial disabilities can significantly contribute,” she says.

Read more about Voices Unsilenced

Three fellows with the Disability Justice Project stand behind their cameras in a room. One is blind and one is low vision.

Capturing Vision Through Sound and Touch

Last summer, the DJP trained Indigenous activists with disabilities from the Pacific on the iPhone camera to create a documentary series on disability and climate change. With VoiceOver, the iPhone provides image descriptions for blind and low-vision filmmakers and offers other accessible features. “If you think about it, it doesn’t make sense for a blind person to use a camera,” says DJP filmmaker Ari Hazelman. “The iPhone gives you more avenues to tell your story in a more profound way as a blind person.”

Read more about Capturing Vision Through Sound and Touch