In June, 257 young people, many university students, came to an event to launch the Lancet Commission on Global Mental and Sustainable Development and #mymindourhumanity campaign in Kenya. Damian Juma and Joy Muhia – young leaders representing the commission in Kenya – organised the event in collaboration with the Medical Psychologists Association of Kenya, Growth Catalysts, and Doctor Mind Brain.
Below Damian shares his experience of the event bringing together young people, health activists and university staff to improve awareness and support for mental health problems
The Future is Young
The opening speech was given by Prof. David Ayuku. I then oriented the audience to what @mymindourhumanity is and what we do. We had lively performances focusing on mental health ranging from poetry by Tarawa, Tafariwa and kamistari, skit by Drama Club-Snowman guys and salsa by Salsa_Latin Dancers.
On the talks, our Dean School of Medicine professor Lukoye Atwoli set us off. He emphasized the importance of focusing on our mental health and our surrounding, and the country can cannot achieve its vision for 2030 if mental health is not given a priority. He also quoted our president’s speech on Madaraka day where the president spoke about mental health and specifically depression. In Kenya, suicide cases are on the rise especially among young people. Professor Rudolf from Maastricht University emphasized the importance of having more skilled health care givers in mental health.
Laura and Triza, respectively, made presentations on stress and depression emphasising the importance of self-care and dealing with stress. Others shared their experience of living with mental health problems, including post-partum psychosis and depression after giving birth, a medical student who had lost a friend to depression, and bipolar disorder. The experiences were breathtaking and eye opening.
The winning poem ‘For My Sisters’ by @nasikiwa_susie, was presented by a public health advocate. The poem was selected from a poetry festival campaign that had more than 850 submissions in different languages (Kiswahili, Spanish, English, Arabic Portuguese) held by @mymindourhumanity.
I introduced and presented the policy brief, a call to action launched at the World Health Assembly by one of my fellow young leaders, Chantelle. A subset of Young Leaders led by Chantelle created the brief aimed at policy makers in collaboration with the Mental Health Innovation Network. Here is the link to the brief https://globalmentalhealthcommission.org/policybrief/young-people-will-transform-global-mental-health/
From a short feedback form, we found that the change participants most want to see in mental health is more awareness. 97% of the people attending would be interested in joining a similar event and proposed that more people with personal experiences are key speakers at future events. We also asked them to report on their favourite part of the event: 60% most liked the personal testimonies most, 27% most liked the poetry acts and 13% preferred the talks. The majority were most impressed by the event organization: in one word, they described the event as “awesome.”
It was a pleasure hosting my fellow young people and getting a chance to unveil the masks that are always worn whenever we attempt to talk about mental health. The massive turn out is proof enough that young people are yearning for opportunities to be heard and understood as well as platforms to share their dark stories without being judged. The future is young; we have every reason to protect it.
About the author
Damian is a young leader representing the Lancet Commission on Global Mental and Sustainable Development and #mymindourhumanity campaign in Kenya.
Join @mymindourhumanity on Instagram and Facebook