Audio postcard: Focus group brings youth together to share insights on mental health in Malawi

An outdoor focus group sitting discussing the mental health project

Hi there,

My there, my name is Stephen Sherman. I am an intern with Farm Radio Trust in Malawi. Farm Radio Trust is a strategic partner of Farm Radio International.

For this audio postcard, I chose a picture of an outdoor focus group conducted at Chinsapo Secondary School in Lilongwe. [Located on the Lilongwe River, Lilongwe is the capital and largest city in Malawi, with a population of about 750,000.]

In this photo, you can see Marvin Hanke looking at my camera while sitting in on a focus group. Marvin Hanke is a knowledge partner in the Mental Health Integrated Innovations (MHII) project and is the director and producer of the edu-training youth radio mini-drama that will constitute a portion of the youth depression radio program.

Marvin tagged along for the week-long informative research trip, sitting in on and helping conduct numerous focus groups. Marvin and the MHII program team want to ensure that the mini-drama matches the wants, needs and character of youth in Malawi.

[In Malawi, approximately 10 million or two thirds of the country’s 15 million people are under the age of 18.]

Marvin was full of questions and jokes for the young people and his presence during the research was appreciated by the youth, who were eager to have their voices reflected in the youth depression radio program. It was a pleasure to spend the week with Marvin and I am looking forward to our upcoming trip to Blantyre to document the recording of the pilot episode of the mini-drama.

[Blantyre is Malawi’s second largest city with a population just under 750,000 and it is the financial and commercial hub of the country.]

Farm Radio’s latest efforts in Malawi look to address the problem of youth depression, which affects five to seven per cent of adolescents in the country. A serious issue, depression can cripple performance in school and work, cause youth to withdraw from family and social networks, and may lead to suicide.

In partnership with broadcasters, youth groups, schools and healthcare providers, Farm Radio International is working to apply the almighty radio to minimize the stigma that surrounds mental health, rally community support and increase understanding.

To learn more about the project featured in this audio postcard, Integrated Mental Health In Malawi, funded by Grand Challenges Canada, please visit the project page.

About the author
Stephen Sherman is a Farm Radio intern based in Lilongwe, Malawi. He is a recent graduate of the Communications program at Carleton University and is taking part in the Centre for Media and Transitional Societies (CMTS) internship program. Farm Radio is hosting five interns from this program in 2013.

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