Depression is a widespread and serious illness that affects people throughout the world, whether they live in the richest enclaves or the poorest communities. It usually begins during youth. About five to seven per cent of adolescents in Malawi suffer from depression. Youth with this illness are unable to function in school or work, withdraw from their families and social networks, experience pain and continuous grief, and are at risk of committing suicide. With the right support services, it can be overcome, especially if it is identified and treated quickly. But in southern Africa and elsewhere, people with depression experience, at best, misunderstanding and lack of appropriate care and, at worst, stigma, discrimination and isolation, making the impact of the illness much worse.
Farm Radio International, in partnership with the Guidance Counseling and Youth Development Centre of Africa, Farm Radio Malawi and Dr. Stan Kutcher of Dalhousie University, is implementing a new three-year initiative called Integrated Mental Health Program in Malawi, with funding from Grand Challenges Canada. Working with radio broadcasters, youth groups, schools and health care providers, this innovative program will help youth in Malawi understand depression and its symptoms, learn to talk about it and get help. Farm Radio will support the development of an innovative radio drama and program to overcome stigma and raise awareness about youth depression in southern Africa.