Press release: Mental Health on Air documentary shares story of how radio can tackle stigma surrounding mental illness


Mental Health on Air:

Farm Radio International (FRI) and TeenMentalHealth.Org are launching a documentary about the power of radio to address a rarely discussed health challenge facing developing countries: youth mental health and mental illness. Mental Health on Air explores the impact of two radio shows and school-based listening clubs on mental health literacy and youth engagement in Malawi and Tanzania.

“We are saying we are building the youth to be the next leaders. So, if we have youth who are mentally ill, who are stressed, how do we have good leaders?” Lucious Zimba, a teacher at Lilongwe Girls Secondary School, Malawi.

Ottawa, Canada — September 15, 2015 — Depression and mental illness affect youth regardless of where they live. Youth mental health is an issue often left undiscussed — in classrooms in Canada and in developing countries like Malawi and Tanzania, where malaria and malnutrition are often treated as more pressing public health concerns.

Two radio shows, along with school-based listening clubs, are helping to foster the next generation of leaders of Malawi and Tanzania by starting a discussion on the difficult topic of depression and mental health.

Journalist Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco explores the role of radio in decreasing the stigma surrounding mental health in his documentary, Mental Health on Air: Healthy minds, resilient communities. The CBC Ottawa reporter recently took a leave of absence to travel to Tanzania and Malawi to document the challenges facing individuals with mental illness in these two countries. His documentary discusses how one innovative project is starting a conversation in schools and communities across Malawi and Tanzania about mental health.

Mental Health on Air will be launched at an event in Ottawa, Oct. 25 at the Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University.

Mental Health on Air will be screened in Toronto, Nov. 1 at Friends House, 60 Lowther Avenue.

Radio can reach people where they live, work and play. The “Integrated youth mental health” project, a partnership between Farm Radio International and TeenMentalHealth.Org, has sought to decrease the stigma surrounding mental health, enhance mental health literacy and improve access to effective care. Teachers, youth workers and primary care workers have received training to better identify the signs of mental illness and be better able to effectively treat youth who have depression.

Meanwhile, two radio programs — Nkhawa Njee – Yonse Bo (Depression free, life is cool) and Positive Mood, on air on MCB2 and Radio 5 in Malawi and Tanzania, respectively — have found a unique way to kickstart a discussion about depression. They combine hip hop beats, celebrity interviews and a radio soap opera to create an entertaining 30-minute program that youth are excited about. An estimated 500,000 youth in Malawi have tuned in to Nkhawa Njee.

For more information on the “Integrated youth mental health” project, funded by Grand Challenges Canada, click here.

Watch the trailer below, and check out related clips.


About Farm Radio International
Farm Radio International is a Canadian charity that harnesses the power of radio to meet the needs of small-scale farmers. We work with 600 radio partners in 39 African countries to fight poverty and food insecurity. FRI resources and training help African broadcasters produce and deliver practical, relevant and timely information to tens of millions of farmers. We also work with a range of partners to implement radio projects that respond to community needs.

To learn more about this and other FRI projects, or to arrange interview with individuals involved in the project, please contact:
Kevin Perkins, Executive Director, Farm Radio International
1404 Scott Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1Y 4M8
Tel: 1-613-203-4443, 1-613-761-3658, or 1-800-267-8699 x3658

About TeenMentalHealth.Org uses the best scientific evidence available to develop application-ready training programs, publications, tools and resources to enhance the understanding of adolescent mental health issues. The Principal Investigator of this project, Dr. Stan Kutcher, works to create, develop and deliver research, education and clinical programs by collaborating with its audiences.
Learn more.

For media inquiries, or to arrange an interview with Dr. Stan Kutcher, please contact:
Kate Elliot, Communications Coordinator
Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health
(902) 470-8444 or (902) 440-7844

About Grand Challenges Canada
Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact® in global health. We are funded by the Government of Canada and we fund innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. The bold ideas we support integrate science and technology, social and business innovation – we call this Integrated Innovation®. We focus on bringing successful innovation to scale, catalyzing sustainability and impact. We have a determined focus on results, and on saving and improving lives.

Learn more.

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