OPINION: “Mental health always comes last on the list of priorities”

By Winnifrida Nicholaus Msekeni

This opinion piece is part of a series written by our #Youth members, for our Voices of Children & Young People Around the World report.


What Mental Health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.”  Glenn Close

The growing awareness of the importance of mental health as a key component in child’s development has begun to shape global health initiative during the past quarter of the century.  However, mental health issues are usually given very low priority in health services policies. Mental health always comes last on the list of priorities especially when it comes to policy making, whereby in many countries in Africa they have no mental health policies, programs or even action plans.

Factors such as poor mental health literacy, high level of stigma, and the weak capacity of the community on tackling mental health issues make the situation even worse.  These challenges are significant barriers to accessing mental health care for depression, which is soon to be the largest single contributor to the regional and global burden of disease and morbidity rate, mortality.

It’s heart breaking to see that mental disorders such as depression are often not recognized as an illness and remain largely untreated, especially when the problem can be remedied earlier, for mental health disorders can be diagnosed before one reaches the age of 25.

Suggestively, in case there is to be a mental health policy for Africa it should concern itself with maximizing scarce public resources and support families in provision of best services for mental illness. The policy should aim at changing the negative perception of mental disorders or the whole notion of mental health.


Winnifrida Nicholaus Msekeni is a member of Child Helpline International’s #Youth advisory council.