In this photo, you see a student who was involved in a mental health literacy course for young leaders in the town of Salima, Malawi. This training was part of the multi-pronged approach taken in our latest project in Malawi, which includes an entertaining radio program, an interactive call-in line, and training for teachers and youth leaders in order to improve mental health literacy and remove the strong stigma attached to mental illness in the country.
Depression is a widespread and serious illness among adolescents throughout the world. However, in many countries, it is typically overlooked as a health priority and viewed as secondary to communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. As a result, youth suffering from a mental illness such as depression often have a difficult time knowing what is wrong and where to go to get help, and their friends and family members also do not know what to do to provide support.
Farm Radio International has had wide-scale success in raising awareness about issues related to agriculture, food security, and nutrition. Believing that our model can be adapted to address health issues, we embarked on an “Integrated Mental Health Program” in Malawi and Zambia with the support of Grand Challenges Canada. In partnership with content experts and knowledge partners in the field of psychiatry, we will use our expertise in behavioural change communication to use radio and mobile phone platforms to reach out to youth and inform them about depression. Through our campaign, youth in Malawi and Zambia will learn how to identify depression and its symptoms and where to go to get help if needed.
In addition to creating demand for mental health services, we are also working with teachers, peer educators, and primary health care providers to ensure that youth who are suffering from depression are identified and receive appropriate medical and psychological assistance. Through this “integrated approach,” we hope that early identification and treatment will be widely available to address the mental health needs of teenagers in Malawi and Zambia.