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Gakwaya Albert: Treating mental problems through documentary movies

Albert Gakwaya-PhD candidate in Psychology

Albert Gakwaya: PhD candidate in Psychology

“It was always my dream to one day make people fully understand different psychological diseases and how they can be treated,” begins Albert Gakwaya, a Rwandan in the faculty of Psychology at Université Pontifique Salésienne de Rome in Italy.

I caught up with him in an exclusive interview in Kigali, while he was on a short break but yet a busy schedule working on a research paper for his PhD Thesis.

Gakwaya, 43, has been in the field of Psychology form sometime now. He’s a graduate of Psychology from the former National University of Rwanda-now University of Rwanda-Huye campus.

Alongside his research, Gakwaya has come up with a unique but most needed expertise in healing the globally escalating Human mental stress through documented medicine. Gakwaya explains his journey to the field of psychology and what he has in store for those prone to mental strain.

“I studied Psychology at the university and did my masters degree in the same field which is the same case for my PhD. Every time I found it a challenge for people to understand what Psychology is all about… this was mostly attributed to a number of reasons.

For instance, like before the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, people were vulnerable to the term Psychology and its affiliate illness. It is from here that I realized the need to teach and treat Psycho-issues through the art of documentaries.

I chose to do this through documentary movies as the best channel of passing my message to the victims without any interference, unlike in an audio broadcast,” he says.

Gakwaya’s passion for his career started as a comedian. This prompted him to even work hard to accomplish his desired profession of addressing Psychological issues among the people.

“I liked participating in comedy and drama in secondary school and realized it was the best way of spreading a message than writing or singing. We later formed a comedy club with my colleagues in late 1991 during holidays.

The drama was even aired on Radio and viewed on Rwanda Television. After completing secondary school, I worked as a teacher at a school in my village. I could not double my new assignments with comedy since it was prohibited. I again got employed at St. Andre Catholic School in Nyamirambo, Kigali. While at the school, I started revising my decision of quitting humour and concentrate on education career.”

Making a U-turn

While in the process of quitting his dream profession, Gakwaya landed on an opportunity of a French television crew that flew in the country to shoot a documentary on reconciliation.

“They were looking for young men to work with them. I actively participated. Under the association of Genocide survivors, we set up a drama troupe while at the University.

Most of our drama displays centred on negative impacts of the Genocide. I again thought of dropping my career to focus on designing a project to set a cinema theatre. The project didn’t work due to financial constraints.”

Gakwaya adds that “However, after completing my masters and starting PhD course, I was forced to work on publication and research paper. As a PhD candidate in Psychology, it is mandatory to have basic skills in shooting documentaries in order to deliver hands-on knowledge to students.”

Currently, Gakwaya is designing a documentary movie as part of his research proposal. The proposal, titled: SUBSATANCES PSYCHO ACTIVES: « Alcohol dans la vie de tout les jours » loosely translated to mean:   PSYCHO ACTIVE SUBSATANCES: “Alcohol in everyday life”

As part of the final publication of his Thesis, Gakwaya says that this documentary movie, his 3rd edition, will not only facilitate his academic completion, but also act as a catalyst in helping people affected by all sorts of stress.

“I classified stress in different categories in this documentary; extreme and normal stress; mainly caused by workloads and pressure from workplace superiors. I did the documentary in collaboration with different artistes living abroad. This documentary helps stress victims to overcome it through entertainment,” says Gakwaya.

According to Gakwaya, the kind of stress suffered by Europeans is not similar from that of Rwandans and other Africans…hence prompting them to switch to alcohol consumption as a medicine to treat stress.

“Rwanda is rapidly moving so fast in globalization. This makes Rwandans work hard and hence prone to stress. In line with my research proposal, I co-worked with a pharmacist to expose the dangers and good part of alcohol consumption.

I did it in a scientific way as part of my thesis proposal. We carried a survey on alcohol consumption based on three categories; normal, risky and addicted consumption to give us a clear view of effects of alcohol consumption. ”

Setting up a Psycho-social medical centre

On completion of his studies, top on Gakwaya’s agenda is to set up a Psycho-Social medical centre in Rwanda that will be helping victims of mental stress.

“Currently I am focusing on completing my studies. But I plan to come back to Rwanda and set up a centre that will be facilitating people with mental-related issues like family involved in domestic wrangles and many others. Our brain is like a computer processor. We will provide them with the best therapy to refresh their brain.”

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