A 360 Degree Solution To The State of Mental Health in Kenya
Do you check on your friends often? Do you openly discuss mental wellness and depression? Many Africans would answer no to both questions. If there is anything that resonates in most African cultures, it is the stigma associated with mental illness. Some people would even go as far as saying that depression or mental illness is not “African”. It is usually witchcraft and a sign that a traditional cleansing is needed. Yet the continent is riddled with stress-related illnesses, mental disorders and in the worst case, suicide. The lack of adequate attention to this widespread problem coupled with a series of painful personal experiences led to the founding of Mental360, a social business seeking to raise awareness and actively solve the problem of Mental Health in Kenya and beyond .
Health experts have estimated that a fourth of the Kenyan population, which is 44 million, suffers from a range of mental diseases. These diseases include schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, and severe anxiety. According to Mental360, the youth forms 67% of the Kenyan population and suicide is the second leading cause of death among them. These deaths are linked to mental illness occasioned by several stress factors that young people face. With high underemployment and unemployment rates, a majority of the youth cannot afford mental health care. Founder Bright Shitemi and his team have made it their mission to help alleviate and address this Mental Health Crisis.
Mental360 promotes mental wellness by raising awareness through various programs such as an Arts festival where young artists showcase their talent and shine the spotlight on mental health/illness. Taking a holistic approach to the recovery process, Mental360 offers safe spaces to youth going through mental challenges, affordable to free therapy solutions for the youth and they also promote mental health through physical wellness in the form of yoga and dance classes as well as art therapy. The Time to Talk Caravan is a nationwide campaign in the form of a Mental Health Drive that goes to communities and ignites conversations around Mental Health. The impact has been tremendous. The organisation has managed to have over 700 therapy sessions,42 mental health awareness events and reached over 15,000 people in the past year. The icing on the cake is that Mental360 has been involved in the Mental Health Amendment Bill tabled this year by Senator Sylvia Kasanga.
Collaboration has been an important facet of the success of Mental360 and they continue to receive support from the various stakeholders. The organisation is looking to scale its impact through collaboration with other stakeholders and grant funding while also establishing a dynamic and sustainable business model. A model that caters to youth on all social classes, this in a bid to reduce reliance on donor funding whilst still achieving impact. This is surely one enterprise to keep an eye on!
Listen to my full interview with Bright Shitemi in this Podcast Episode:
Jocelyn is a Digital Storyteller who believes that the fusion of Social Impact Storytelling and Business Development is the key to the growth and sustainability of the social enterprise sector in Africa. Through her organization, Impact Chronicles, Jocelyn empowers African social enterprises and amplifies the message of Impact and Innovation to audiences the world over. She envisions the continent’s Changemakers thriving through collaboration and opportunities facilitated by Impact Chronicles