1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their lives
The International Community commemorated Mental Health Day on October 10 to highlight the importance of mental wellness to general wellbeing. This year’s theme, “Mental health is a universal human right”, was designed to improve knowledge, raise awareness and drive actions that promote and protect everyone’s mental health as a universal human right.
According to a 2021 World Health Organization report, “one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.”
Over the past one year, four citizen-led digital campaigns have garnered momentum in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and India seeking to provide mental healthcare for all citizens. Here is how you can join these movements and the stories behind the citizens leading them.
Aisha Bubah: Mainstreaming Mental Health in Nigeria’s Primary Healthcare System
Hailing from Nigeria’s Northern region, Aisha’s resilience shines brighter than ever. After enduring the harrowing impact of the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency on her mental health, she emerged stronger and founded the ‘Idimma Initiative’ to empower and educate her community on the importance of mental well-being.
Aisha’s campaign is asking the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) to train primary healthcare workers as Lay Counsellors, set up mental health desks in all Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs), and build the capacity of medical doctors and nurses in PHCs to offer mental health services.
John Mwangi: Protecting the rights of patients in Mental Health Facilities in Kenya
John Mwangi was treated without dignity while he was a patient of a mental health facility in Kenya. This terrible personal experience inspired his campaign.
“I was thrown in dark solitary confinement, whipped, sedated, stripped naked, neglected, verbally abused, and locked up in a flea-infested space.” John said. “If you think I’m referring to how animals are treated, you’re wrong. This is how I, a human being, was treated in the psychiatric ward of a mental health facility where I was admitted. They denied me a bed to sleep on, neither did they inform me of my diagnosis. I was made to feel unworthy of dignity and respect. Ironically, the place I had gone to seek care and healing ended up adding to my trauma”.
Through his petition, John is engaging the Cabinet Secretary for Health to intervene and ensure sensitization training for all staff in mental health facilities on patients’ rights.
Molebogeng Tema: Psychological evaluation in South Africa’s Police Recruitment
Molebogeng is fighting to ensure that the recruitment process of the South African Police Service (SAPS) is reviewed to ensure that police officers in South Africa are within the correct mental state to carry firearms. Her campaign is asking the Minister of Police to implement psychological evaluations as part of the SAPS recruitment processes.
“Growing up in a community where most of our parents are members of the South African Police Service, I had a firsthand experience of how the power that comes with holding a gun has eventually corrupted officers to hurt.” Molebogeng says.
Since #BlackLivesMatter, the issue of ‘killer cops’ has gained wider attention in many African countries including Nigeria and Kenya. Molebogeng’s campaign, when successful, will not only sanitise the police force in South Africa but will also save many lives.
Srirangam Bhavana: Mental Health Support Systems for Indian Women
Bhavana’s mother walked out of 27 years of an abusive marriage. “I am taking my self-respect back”, her mother said. For almost three decades, she cried for help, demanded justice from family and the judicial system, but she was always asked to ‘adjust because men put food on the table’.
In India, depression and anxiety in women is twice as much as in men and affects twenty-five per cent of women. And two-thirds of married women in India were victims of domestic violence, and thus more prone to mental disorders.
Bhavana’s campaign is asking the Women Development & Child Welfare Department. Telangana, to create mental health support systems for women, like her mother, who had the courage to walk out of abusive households. Bhavana believes that mental health support plays a crucial role in rebuilding resilience in women.
Although divided by geography, Aisha, John, Molebogeng, and Bhavana are bound by their power and commitment as Change leaders with Nguvu Collective. Nguvu Collective (The Power Collective) works with new leaders from marginalised communities to make them stronger both socially and personally, so they can make a big, positive difference in society.