Audio postcard: Rapping about mental health to break down stigma

The St. John’s Secondary School Youth Club, led by Jasper Magombo, presented a rap about mental health at Farm Radio Trust’s Open Day on Mental Health in Lilongwe, Malawi.

At a recent event in Lilongwe, Malawi, youth clubs share raps about mental health, inspired by a radio program hosted by The Diktator, on of Malawi’s leading musical artists.

The event was filled with a mixture of entertainment and information on mental health, just like the radio show, Nkhawa Njee Yonse Bo (Depression Free, Life is cool), it was highlighting.

The day brought together youth clubs from across the city, who tune in each week to listen to the program.

Jasper Magombo is one of the students who participated. His group performed a rap they had written specially for the occasion.

“It was telling the youth, telling them that discrimination and how we treat other people that we think are mentally inequivalent to us is not fair somehow because we also have to show them the love that we show to anyone in the ecosystem that is basic. So it’s practically teaching everyone to treat everyone equally, even those that are mentally ill,” he said.

After almost two seasons on air, the radio show has become one of the most popular programs for adolescents in the country.

Conversations on mental health are often ignored in countries such as Malawi, where malnutrition and malaria are the focus of health workers.

But the day showed that youth are willing to discuss and help raise awareness about this issue — a conversation that serves to break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

“We’ve learned to associate with friends, to be social, so that once you’re social everything goes well because if you have problems let’s say maybe with depression and things like those, once you associate with your friends you’re easily helped and it avoids situations like suicide,” said Jasper.

Breaking down stigma surrounding mental health is one component of our Integrated Mental Health project, which is reaching communities in Malawi and Tanzania thanks to the support of Grand Challenges Canada. The project includes training and support for teachers and primary care workers, ensuring youth have guidance and access to care when they need it most.

Kaylee Maddison
About the author  
Kaylee Maddison is spending her summer interning with Farm Radio Trust in Malawi, documenting their mental health and agricultural projects. She is a recent graduate of Carleton University’s Bachelor of Journalism program. Kaylee has also previously been to Rwanda where she studied the country’s media landscape.

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