The 4th Joint International Students’ Scientific Conference (JISSC) took place at Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala Uganda from 13th to 15th March 2019. The theme of the conference being: “Multisectoral Inclusiveness towards Achieving Universal Health Coverage.” It was a pleasure to represent my team at Ryculture Health and Social Innovation as a panellist and a speaker on the work we are doing on addressing mental health concerns.
The global burden of mental health is on the rise and unless action is taken the scourge will keep rising. As Dr. Bukusi once said, ‘we all are either afflicted or affected by a mental health condition.’ We have to take action to avert mental health. I was to cover mental health among the youth and as we all can confirm, the prevalence is on the rise yet not much is being done. We have shifted focus from assessing the contributing factors and addressing the same to diagnosing and treating the condition. This doesn’t change the narrative but rather supports on the last phase of the spectrum.
Key contributors to mental health conditions other genetics and associated individual predispositions are; economic hardships, political tensions, unemployment, generational gap, social anxiety i.e. quarter-life crisis and social tension, cyber bullying and social media, peer pressure among others. Our focus is on sorting these factors and minimizing their impact as much as it calls for in tackling mental health among the youth.
Delegates following discussions on Mental Health among the Youth during #JisscAt4
Conferences as is the common narrative is a platform where we call on policy makers, leaders, politicians and influencers to address our challenges from a higher level, JISSC wasn’t any different except for the mental health caucus. It was evident from the panel to the moderator that we all have a responsibility before calling on policy reforms since all that affects young people with regard to mental health is greatly contributed to by one of us. We have to start by changing our approach, our conduct and shift the focus from our level prior to calling for policy reforms.
The take-home points from the session were that;
- As young people we have to be our brothers’ keepers. Let’s create a safe space that will help with open communication when we have problems amongst ourselves and fuel support at this stage. This is a model of what we are working on at Ryculture known as the #LadiesTalk and #ManTalk sessions where we provide a platform for young people to talk about the challenges they are facing, share their experiences and suggest solutions to the same in their own spaces.
- We have to take time to think as young people before we do anything especially with the technological era. Before sharing any unfriendly comment on a post be empathetic and assess the impact it would have on you if another person directed it to you. With this we will be taking responsibility for our actions and cushioning each other from stresses of life.
- We should create support systems so that we can openly talk about mental conditions as we do with physical sickness. We have to embrace people with mental conditions to avert stigma, encourage uptake of medical care and speed-up recovery.
- Refrain from self-diagnosing and self-medicating for mental health conditions. Mental health has become a fancy disease to have and every young person wants to identify as suffering from depression as the most common case. This should change and we have to see depression as any other condition, nobody walks around diagnosing themselves to have HIV/AIDs and start medicating. Let’s be responsible enough to help those who genuinely need the care and support to get it.
- As young people we know the challenges we go through better, we know how we struggle dealing with them and even have an idea on how we want them to be solved. Unless we share our stories, step-up, speak-up and ask for what we need nobody will come over and present it to us. Let’s all be mental health champions, socially responsible persons and be advocates for a sober society with empathetic people. Let’s do something about our situation and walk past our misery for ourselves, for those who can’t do it by themselves and for the future generations.
It was a pleasure engaging with the JISSC team, mental health champions and survivors, and the Ugandan community.
- Special mention to #SafeBoda riders in Kampala; you made my travel around town seamless and swift through the entire period;
- Imperial Royale, Kampala – Uganda staff for the hospitality during the period at the conference.
- Dr. Kennedy Odokonyero for hosting me in the Pearl of Africa
- Ms. Catherine Cassidy of Africa Innovation Marketplace (www.africainnovationmarketplace.com) for the insights & prospects of collaboration on the Ryculture Social Innovation Hub.
- Ms. Grace of Outbox Innovation Hub in Kampala for the insights on your work and prospects of working together with Ryculture Social Innovation Hub.
- JISSC team, thank you for extending the invitation our end, we look forward to more of such collaborations and work for a better Africa and world.
- Ryculture team, MindYourMind_JKUAT team and Amazing Minds Africa thank you for having worked with me and shaped this passion for mental health now and into the future.