School mental health services begin to bear fruit | The new time

The 2018 Rwanda Mental Health Survey found that depression accounts for 11.9 percent of the general population and at least one in five Rwandans suffers from a mental illness.

Among young people, figures showed that 10.2 percent of young people aged 14 to 18 had mental disorders.

Reports also indicate that most mental disorders usually begin in childhood or adolescence and can persist into adulthood.

To raise young people’s awareness of mental health, a school-based mental health program was launched in 2020 to strengthen the fight against mental illness among adolescents.

dr Yvonne Kayiteshonga, head of the mental health department at Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), told The New Times that the program has so far trained 1,006 out of 2,176 secondary and vocational schools and the plan is expanding this activity to all schools.

Kayiteshonga said the program was initially run by mental health professionals working in county hospitals.

But from May 2022, the psychiatric officers of the health centers began to implement the program.

“The program targets secondary schools and vocational schools because the study showed that the prevalence is in teenagers,” she said.

The mental health professionals visit schools weekly to screen students and staff for early detection of mental health problems and to provide care for those who test positive.

Kevine Micyomyiza, a 5th grade student, said the program was beneficial as many students have family issues that at some point in school are difficult to deal with.

“Some topics are difficult to discuss with our parents, especially when they are part of the story, so it feels better to get help at school. Having someone to talk to when you’re feeling down is something everyone needs,” she said.

She adds: “This also helps improve our performance in the classroom, with a fresh mind you can study well.”

Uzziel Manirareba, the project leader of the Baho Neza Mental Health Project, says that the program is timely and has the right aim, as this age is very sensitive when it comes to mental health.

He said that because young adults need time to open up, share and seek mental health support, school environments create a safe space for effective help and that is why this is an ongoing activity, not a one-day activity.

However, he said that with schools covered, more effort needs to be directed towards households to ensure young people receive support outside of school.

“There is still a gap in access to families; Yes, the child can be helped at school, but what about a safe environment at home?”

In order for the school program to be even more effective, Manirareba urged to take advantage of stable facilities for schools to have enough mental health professionals.

“The program helped through the group therapy, it improved the students’ performance both academically and socially,” he said.

[email protected]

Comments are closed.