Great Lakes: Addressing mental health and the well-being of young people in Rwanda

September 6, 2023

According to the Rwanda Mental Health Survey (RMHS), mental health conditions are significantly prevalent among the youth in Rwanda, with rates ranging from 10.2% to about 20%. The RMHS findings reveal that a significant proportion of Rwandans aged 14 to 25 are struggling with psychological disorders. This statistic emphasises the urgent need for comprehensive mental health support systems that cater specifically to the unique challenges faced by young individuals.

Never Again Rwanda, Interpeace’s local partner in Rwanda implementing the Youth Innovation Lab for Peace (YouthLab) programme, organised an event themed the Amani Youth Expo and Summit focused on addressing mental health and the well-being of young people in Rwanda. The Expo and Summit aimed to raise awareness about the mental health challenges faced by young people in Rwanda and provide a platform for open discussions and innovative solutions.

The Amani Youth Expo and Summit served as a catalyst for change under the YouthLab programme spearheaded by the Young Innovators, which is dedicated to addressing youth mental health. Through a series of thought-provoking panel discussions, engaging workshops, and interactive activities, participants were actively encouraged to share their personal experiences and contribute their valuable ideas on how to enhance mental health services and support systems for young Rwandans. The overarching goal was to foster an environment of collaboration and collective action where diverse perspectives could converge to shape effective strategies for improving the mental well-being of the nation’s youth.

Mfuranzima Fred, the Managing Director at Imfura Heritage in Rwanda and a Young Innovators representative, emphasised the Youthlab Programme’s significance. ‚ÄúUnder the YouthLab initiative, we are committed to supporting the well-being of young individuals. I take this opportunity to thank the event partners and donors for their support. Their invaluable contributions have made the programme a reality.‚ÄĚ

During his opening remarks, Hakomeza Emmanuel, youth intervention senior officer of the Rwanda Biomedical Center, Kigali (RBC), pointed out the significant connection between mental health and youth in Rwanda. ‚ÄúWe need to address the mental health challenges faced by young people and put in place comprehensive support systems. These challenges can significantly impact their overall well-being and hinder their ability to thrive academically and socially. By prioritising mental health support, we can ensure that young people have the resources they need to navigate these challenges and lead fulfilling lives.‚ÄĚ

The panel discussions led by Derick Ndahiro and the audience’s participation offered practical approaches to tackling mental health challenges among youth. The panellists included Jane Abatoni Gatete, a mental health expert; Umuraza Faure Chantal, a passionate mental health advocate and book author; Kabasinga Innocente, a young innovator; and Annick Ishimwe, a dedicated mental health youth advocate. The panellists shared their expertise and personal experiences, providing valuable insights and guidance.

The sessions blended artistic expression with poignant performances, including a theatrical play, compelling thyme poems, and evocative renditions by celebrity musicians. Celebrity musicians such as Papa CYANGWE and B-Threy took the stage, captivating the audience with their heartfelt performances. Comedians Japhet (Bigomba guhinduka) and Rusine Patrick used humour and creativity to convey the importance of young people expressing their pain, seeking help, and feeling free to explore their emotions.

The Expo showcased local NGOs, youth initiatives, and businesses dedicated to mental health advocacy, facilitating networking, and offering a platform for learning and discovering resources essential for nurturing a supportive environment for youth mental health. It emphasised the urgency of prioritising mental health and breaking down stigma, fostering a society where the well-being of young people takes centre stage.

Through the projects ‚ÄúYouth Innovation Lab for Peace (YouthLab)‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúCross-border Dialogue for Peace in the Great Lakes Region‚ÄĚ, funded by the European Union and the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), Never Again Rwanda and Interpeace are committed to empowering young minds, spreading mental health awareness, and cultivating an inclusive community.