Don Zane Muwanguzi is Reach A Hand Uganda peer educator from the class of 2019. During his time at the academy, Don was able to share a lot of experiences with his fellow young people on the Sexual Reproductive Health front.
While at the academy, he was exposed to the reality of issues that are actually affecting many young people, learnt how to think out of the box and create innovative and sustainable solutions. One of his favourite sessions was on Behavior Change Communications (BCC) which focused on the different stages of BCC.
His time at the academy also gave him a lot of experiences on the impact access to SRHR has on young people’s mental state. After the academy, Don has been able to put in place and be part of interventions and activities that seek to address the needs of young people like policy advocacy, school outreaches, radio and TV talk shows among others. It is because of these moves that he initiated an innovative solution to address the psychological challenges young people dubbed Awesome Mind Speaks.
So what is Awesome Mind Speaks?
Awesome Mind Speaks a youth led organisation that is focused on integrating mental health, behavior change and Sexual Health and Reproductive Health Rights, through devising effective communication strategies and campaigns to create awareness and alleviate risks and challenges young people encounter. Its target group is young people from the age of 10 to 24 years of age across the country because Mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in young people aged 10–19 years.
According to the World Health Organisation, globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents. The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.
It is important to prioritise young people’s mental health because it matters and it can influence the decisions they make, mental health challenges can affect the way young people think, act and behave. During the pandemic every many young people’s routines were affected as well as access to information and services causing a drastic change of life that has given young people hard time to adjust to causing depression, anxiety and stress. This has resulted in young people being victims of Gender based Violence, unintended/teenage pregnancies, forced child marriages, STI infections and broken families this greatly impacts on young people’s mental health in ways we cannot imagine therefore mental health intervention are important.
For almost two years now, Awesome Mind Speaks has been and still continues to support young people through their different programs that are uniquely set to address the needs. As part of their programming, they have support group sessions, dialogues, outreaches and competitive writing tasks that empower young people to speak out. They have utilized their online channels during the pandemic to communicate and support young people and where needed we have created linkages to professionals that offer therapy sessions.
In the long run, they hope to integrate mental health in the different programs based on communications, information and services like Sexual Reproductive Health and Right, Behavior change so that young people can ably make informed decisions that are sustainable based on their stable state of mind/mental health.
One last word from the founder:
“If you want to go fast walk alone but if you want to go far walk together” mental health is an inevitably big challenge that needs collective effort. Including mental health in the different programs is key, creating partnerships and collaborations for the cause so that information and services can reach very many young people and creating a platform to speak out more on mental health.