In this photo you see Thembi Thadzi leading a focus group with girls in Lilongwe. Thembi, a colleague of mine on the Integrated Mental Health in Malawi and Zambia program at Farm Radio, is excellent at conducting focus groups.
Within minutes of starting the discussion, even a non-Chichewa speaker like myself could tell that she had made the whole group feel comfortable – their smiles, laughter and free flowing discussion said it all. With this photo I was trying to capture Thembi from the perspective of the girls who were sharing their views on mental health.
Depression is a widespread and serious illness that affects people throughout the world, whether they live in the richest enclaves or the poorest communities. It usually begins during youth. About 5-7% of adolescents in Malawi and Zambia suffer from Depression. Youth with this illness are unable to function in school or work, withdraw from their families and social networks, experience pain and continuous grief, and are at risk of committing suicide. With the right support services, it can be overcome, especially if it is identified and treated quickly. But in southern Africa and elsewhere, people with Depression experience, at best, misunderstanding and lack of appropriate care and, at worst, stigma, discrimination, and isolation, making the impact of the illness much worse.
Farm Radio International, in partnership with the Guidance Counseling and Youth Development Centre of Africa, Farm Radio Malawi, and Dr. Stan Kutcher of Dalhousie University, is implementing a new 3-year initiative called Integrated Mental Health Program in Malawi and Zambia with funding from Grand Challenges Canada. Working with radio broadcasters, youth groups , schools and health care providers, this innovative program will help youth in Malawi and Zambia understand Depression and its symptoms, and learn how to talk about it and how to get help. Farm Radio will support the development of an innovative radio drama and program to overcome stigma and raise awareness about youth Depression in southern Africa.