[#WHD2017 Africa Blog Series] Inspiring African innovations: An Integrated Approach to Youth Depression, Malawi and Tanzania

This blog is part of our series celebrating World Health Day 2017. This year's theme is Depression: Let's Talk and we're showcasing inspiring innovations addressing depression across Africa.

MHIN Africa innovation on depression 3: An Integrated Approach to Addressing the Issue of Youth Depression,

A model integrating weekly interactive youth programs, the Integrated Approach to Addressing the Issue of Youth Depression helps decrease stigma and improve identification and treatment of depression in young people.

Tell us about your country’s context and the circumstances that inspired your innovation

Depression is the cause of the world’s greatest burden of disease and, about 50% of people who will ever get a depression in their lives experience their first episode as a young person.  In countries where youth make up most of the population (such as Malawi and Tanzania), most people do not know about depression and stigma. In addition, lack of skilled health care providers make access to treatment difficult, if not almost impossible. Since depression can be effectively treated, it is essential to break down the stigma and decrease the barriers that prevent young people from getting access to effective care.

An Integrated Approach to Addressing the Challenge of Depression (IACD) among the youth in Malawi and Tanzania is an innovative model developed by Dr Kutcher in collaboration with Farm Radio International. Funded by Grand Challenges Canada, it is a Pathway Through Mental Health Care (PTMHC) for young people that integrates radio dramas for awareness and stigma reduction. This is linked to training of teachers and school-based listening clubs for mental health literacy and training of community health workers in the identification, diagnosis and effective treatment of youth with depression has shown how this can be accomplished.

What aspect of your project are you most excited about? How is the project innovative or unique?

This integrated, three-legged stool approach is the first of its kind anywhere. Combining a radio show, school programs and clinician training, the model has demonstrated significant improvements in increasing knowledge, decreasing stigma, and enhancing access to care and has shown good clinical outcomes. Radio dramas engage youth. School interventions bring in teachers and embed mental health literacy. Trained health care workers now can provide treatment when none was previously available.  By linking all these pieces together, a simple yet effective pathway emerges.  A model and pathway that can be used in Malawi and Tanzania as well as across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Have you noticed an impact ‘on the ground’? What is the best feedback you have received (from service users, team members, or otherwise)?

The impact has been huge. The radio drama alone has reached over 500,000 young people in Malawi and Tanzania. Over 400 teachers and 200 health providers have been trained. There has been an increase in the number of youth approaching teachers with health concerns and most of those youth required treatment.  Research shows that all components of the model have demonstrated significant and substantial impact. Lives have been transformed.

This program was recently chosen as a global innovation by the Mental Health Innovation Network (and presented at the World Bank and World Health Organization summit on global mental health).  It is now being used to inform further developments in youth mental health innovation, in low, middle and upper income countries alike.

What’s next?

We know that this works.  We know that putting this into place can help thousands of young people and the building blocks are already in place. Our next task is to find funding to help support the scale out of this intervention across all of Malawi and Tanzania, and then, hopefully, across Sub-Saharan Africa as well.

What is the one message about depression you want people to take away from your innovation?

Early access to effective treatment is possible and the outcomes are good!  We can achieve this together – by linking media, schools and health care providers together.  A Pathway to Mental Health Care for young people is not only possible, but it works!

For more African innovations featured in this series, please visit the [#WHD2017 Africa Blog Series].

Families and carers
Primary care
Empowerment and service user involvement
Prevention and promotion
Treatment, care and rehabilitation
Training, education and capacity building
Child behavioural and developmental disorders
Depression/anxiety/stress-related disorders
How useful did you find this content?: 
Your rating: None
No votes yet
Log in or become a member to contribute to the discussion.