The issue of Mental health problems remain an enigma among community members and young people in Malawi. More often than not, the society associates mental health illnesses with witchcraft and other spiritual beliefs.
Thus, limited knowledge of such problems also stands as an obstacle to access of services. Mental health problems have adverse impact on young people’s academic performance and their overall productivity in the society.
In response to the growing demand for mental health information among the youth, YONECO conducted an awareness session at Sir Green Jones High School in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Zulu in Mchinji district.
During the session, young people engaged with YONECO officers on early warning signs, causes, effects and coping mechanisms regarding mental health.
Among other things, it was noted that young people with mental health problems suffer in silence for fear of stigma. Further to this, young people also indicated that they ignore certain symptoms due to limited knowledge of mental health issues.
“Sometimes, we see our peers resorting to drug and substance abuse and we then think that they are transitioning to a new life style not knowing that they are courting trouble,” said one of the students.
YONECO officer, Thomas Mvwala urged the youth to seek support when they are not feeling well. He highlighted that they can report to Mchinji District Hospital or to YONECO Office in the district where they can get free counselling services. The drug and substance crisis line 6600 was also publicized as a channel that could be used to seek mental health services.
A total of 52 young people (18 male students and 34 female students) attended the session.