When creating programs to strengthen young people’s mental health – they must be community driven. This involves recognizing the value of young people for the design and implementation of mental health programs – and more.
Through the Rising Minds podcast, young people shape conversations on the issues that impact their lives and wellbeing. In a series of deep dive blog posts, we summarise key messages from the speakers of the podcasts. This post reviews why community-driven initiatives matter for young people’s mental health.
1. Young people are valuable in the co-creation and success of mental health programs.
Isaac Olufadewa is a medical doctor and the founder of the Slum and Rural Health Initiative. Isaac’s background growing up in a rural community in Nigeria has shaped his dedication to community-driven initiatives.
“We see young people not just as beneficiaries or not just as recipients of projects or funds or programs. So the programs does not just happen to them, they are co-created, they are champions, they are recognized and their voice needs to be heard and actively heard in programs.”– Isaac Olufadewa, medical doctor and founder, Slum and Rural Health Initiative.
This recognition of young people as active contributors to mental health initiatives, not merely as beneficiaries, involves actively seeking their input in the development of programs.
Isaac underscores the active voice, energy, and passion that young people bring to community-driven programs. He also shares experiences where engaging young people in mental health projects had indirect benefits. These included, their voluntary involvement in activities beyond the project scope and tapping into their diverse skills and interests.
Isaac highlights the effectiveness of persistently working with young people in community cooperation, co-creating projects, and ensuring that the innovation is not just designed for them but with them. This approach involves engaging young individuals in discussions, competitions, and advisory roles to actively shape mental health interventions.
2. Community-driven programs help reduce mental health stigma and increase safe spaces.
Community-driven initiatives play a crucial role in reducing the stigma associated with mental health. By fostering understanding and awareness within the community, these initiatives contribute to changing how people perceive and treat individuals with mental health conditions.
Being part of a community allows individuals to access valuable information about mental health. The Alika Health team highlights that having a community helps in sharing experiences, tips, and information on seeking help, medications, and coping mechanisms. All of this helps reduce the stigma around mental health.
Community initiatives help humanize mental health issues. By sharing personal stories and experiences, individuals contribute to changing the narrative around mental health. It helps to move away from stigmatizing labels and towards a more compassionate understanding.
This, in turn, helps create safe spaces where individuals can openly share their experiences without fear of judgment. These spaces encourage openness, which, in turn, contributes to better mental well-being.
3. When community is at the center, peer support, advocacy and education increases.
Community initiatives are seen as essential for advocacy and education. By engaging in community-driven efforts, individuals can educate others about mental health issues, challenge myths, and work towards changing societal attitudes.
Overall, the speakers emphasize that community-driven initiatives are instrumental in creating positive change. They provide support and challenge societal norms related to mental health.
The collective strength of a community helps individuals navigate challenges and work towards improving mental well-being on a broader scale.
Having a supportive community empowers individuals to collectively fight for their rights. Akila Health members believe that community has a significant impact in advocating for the rights of those living with mental health conditions.
The speakers stress the importance of peer support within a community. Having friends who understand and can provide mental support is seen as a positive impact on individual well-being.
Community-driven initiatives play a role in encouraging help-seeking behavior. Speakers express the importance of seeking help early and believe that community awareness can contribute to reducing suicide rates and promoting early intervention.
2 Examples of Community-Driven Initiatives for Mental Health
Pepea – an initiative by Alika Health
As part of Alika Health‘s efforts to raise awareness on important mental health illnesses, they’ve partnered with PDO Kenya in an initiative called Pepea. The initiative provides a safe and youth-friendly space for young men and women (aged 18-30 years) living with psychosocial disabilities.
Pepea is a support group formed by young individuals in Nakuru, Kenya, who have lived experiences with mental health challenges. The group aims to create a positive and supportive community for individuals facing mental health issues. The name “Pepea” means “fly,” symbolizing their desire to transcend beyond the stigma associated with mental illness and challenge negative perceptions.
The group discusses various topics related to mental health during their meetings, including medication, coping mechanisms, and stress management. They emphasize the importance of creating a safe space where members can openly share their experiences without fear of judgment. The primary goal of Pepea is to help its members grow, prosper, challenge societal stigma, and ultimately lead more positive lives despite facing mental health conditions.
Overall, Pepea strives to create a supportive and understanding community that helps its members overcome personal challenges, reduce stigma, and foster positive mental well-being.
Simbi Health Mobile App
Isaac Olufaduwa mentions the Simbi Health mobile app, a mental health innovation developed by his organization, the Slum and Rural Health Initiative. The app aims to provide quality mental health information and services to young people across Africa.
Simbi Health stands out as a platform that allows young individuals to reach out to experienced psychiatrists or mental health experts at any time of the day, offering accessibility and support whenever needed. The app focuses on storytelling as a means of delivering transformative information, making young users aware of positive changes happening around them and letting them know that they are not alone in their mental health journey.
Isaac expresses his personal goal of reaching at least a million people in the next 10 years through the Simbi Health app, emphasizing the importance of championing digital initiatives for the well-being of young people in Africa.
First launched as a pop-up radio show at the Women Deliver 2023 conference by Fondation Botnar, all Rising Minds episodes are now published as a resource available for all to access. Find out more here. And follow the series with Girls Globe that takes a closer look at the issues and perspectives raised by young people around the world. Subscribe here.