Youth learning about, discussing their mental health with help from the radio

Members of the Lilongwe-based Nkhawa Njee listening club at Cayo. Tamanda Roy Meja in green and Amos Chinangws behind her.

Each Monday, youth clubs across the central region of Malawi meet and tune into Nkhawa Njee — Yonse Bo (Depression Free, Life is Cool), a radio show on mental health airing on Radio 2 FM.

Gathered around a yellow solar-powered radio, youth ages 14 to 25, listen as the show’s fast-talking host, The Diktator, takes them through the half hour program.

With celebrity interviews, popular music and an addictive mini-drama, the program is an entertaining way to learn. Listening groups, such as the Lilongwe-base club, Cayo, provide a space for young people to talk about mental health.

Members of the club, including Tamanda Roy Meja, have discovered ways to cope with depression.

“At first when I was facing Nkhawa (depression), most of time I was putting myself in bad ways. I was maybe taking beer, thinking this is the best way that it can release me from Nkhawa, but now when I come to this I know that Nkhawa cannot be released in this way.”

Amos Chinangws is another one of the many youth who have found hope and understanding about mental health because of the show.

“It is an important program because [depression] is there; it’s true we can’t deny it. It is us the youth who are involved in Nkhawa. This program helps this people who are stressed, especially the youth cause if the stress hasn’t been managed within the youth I think it will be very bad and a very difficult thing.”

Over three years, the show has made a noticeable difference to the lives of youth in Malawi, by encouraging serious discussion, as well as laughs.

“Personally, it helped me a lot and I like the program because each time I listen to it, it moves me and it changed my life,” said Amos.

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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