Mental Health as a topic has been avoided in the wider narratives of society. Conversing about our most private thoughts and feelings is often a courageous thing to do, given that we are not only faced with our vulnerability but also being judged, stereotyped and discriminated against. With the rise of mental illness globally, it begs the question of how healthy are our cultures and environments, and how much does mental health impact physical health. Each year we see global rates of around 800,000 people who commit suicide, which is double the rate of homicide, and for young people between 15-29 years it is the second biggest killer.
In Africa, there is little to no investment in mental health services, mainly due to budget limitations but also stigmatisation. Hence, it is not dealt with effectively. It’s clear that working in Mental Health is not a viable career option as there are as little as 0.9 mental health professionals per 100,000 people in Africa compared to the global average of 9; 12-14 in the UK.
Amaudo, a mental health charity in the UK and Nigeria, has been running for over thirty years. They are currently running four projects in Nigeria; Amaudo Okopedi, Amaudo Ntalakwu, Project Comfort, and Community Mental Health Programme (CMHP). These projects focus on residential rehabilitation, support and education for people with complex care needs, a community-based service for children, and nurse-led clinics in southeast Nigeria respectively. Success of these programmes could increase overall improvement in mental health, which often correlates with an improvement in physical health, a reduction in human rights violations and economic benefits.
Overall, the continent is beginning to foster approaches devised by the WHO to help improve mental health. In 2019, The West African Health Organisation (WAHO) organised a conference in which forty professionals discussed in depth their progress. Focusing on common issues throughout the continent, they were able to explore new and innovative ideas and also strategise on funding. Despite the many reasons why mental health should be prioritised, the developmental phase is slow moving, but Africa is taking strides towards the WHO's targets.