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More youth from Kiambu, Nyeri are grappling with mental health issues

Turning Point

Dr Dorcas Magai empowers the youth to be in charge of their mental health. She spoke to Silas Nyamweya.

What personal experiences triggered you to initiate the Communities Mental Wellness Campaign?

My motivation to initiate the Communities Mental Wellness Organisation was driven by my everyday interactions within the community. The roots of this inspiration can be traced back to my Master's Research project conducted in 2016 across households in Kiambu and Nyeri Counties. Through this study, I delved into the emotional and behavioural challenges faced by children and youth. Interacting with community gatekeepers such as chiefs, assistant chiefs, village elders, religious leaders, and parents, I unearthed a pressing need for enhanced mental health services. The study findings were striking, indicating that children and youth were grappling with mental health problems at more than double the rate of their peers in other countries. The stakeholders' message resonated with the demand for accessible mental health support within the community.

How has the journey been for Communities' Mental Wellness?

The journey of Communities' Mental Wellness has been a remarkable one. It began in 2019 as a website named Healthy Minds Africa. Assisted by my mentor, I penned newsletters and blogs on mental health issues to create awareness. Despite the challenge of juggling roles as a mother, wife, and Ph.D. student, the intrinsic fulfillment and positive feedback from individuals who benefited from the information fueled my dedication. With the support of my family and friends, I embarked on this path, which eventually led to the formal registration of the organization. The transition from a website to a physical office in Malindi, Kilifi County marked a significant milestone. Over time, we have expanded our reach, disseminating mental health information in religious settings and schools, and incorporating mental health screening tools on our website.

What significant impact has the program achieved so far?

Our mental health program's impact has been profound. From its origins as a website, we have established a physical presence with an office in Malindi, Kilifi County. We've successfully raised awareness of mental health within various community groups, including schools and religious institutions. The most cherished outcomes are the stories of transformation that we receive from the communities we engage with. By disseminating blogs and newsletters on mental health, we've reached a wide audience across the country. Moreover, our online platforms on Facebook and Instagram offer psychosocial counseling options, and we've fostered positive relationships with potential partners through our executive leadership.

What challenges are currently impeding the achievement of your program's goals?

Lack of funding for implementing mental health interventions. We rely largely on personal savings and contributions from friends.

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