Rwanda: Mental Health Awareness Campaign Launched in Bugesera Schools
Imbuto Foundation, GAERG (a Genocide survivors’ organisation) and Baho Neza, (a project initiated by First Lady, Jeannette Kagame to raise awareness on family planning and early childhood development) joined forces on Wednesday to initiate a groundbreaking mental health awareness campaign at Musenyi high school in Bugesera district.
The campaign aims to create a safe and supportive space for students, families, and the wider community to come together, share their stories, and find solace and support.
Under the guidance of dedicated teachers, students collaborated to create a diverse collection of poignant poems and sketches that reflect their personal experiences, emotions, and reflections on mental health. These powerful artistic expressions served as a medium to convey the complexities of mental health and foster empathy among the attendees.
The primary objective of this campaign is to enhance mental health awareness within academic communities, address trans-generational trauma, equip individuals with new skills and knowledge on the issue, and provide a platform for young people to voice their perspectives on mental health.
On the same day, Gitagata primary school and Nkanga secondary school also received visits from the campaign team, extending the reach of the mental health program to over 800 schools.
Mental health encompasses having a sense of purpose, self-esteem, resilience, and the ability to manage emotions, cope with stress, and make meaningful contributions to society.
Odree Mugwaneza, Baho Neza project coordinator, highlighted the major causes of mental health issues, which include trans-generational trauma and family conflicts. Addressing these root causes and implementing effective interventions are crucial steps towards improving mental well-being.
“We recognized the need to provide support to the most vulnerable, which led to the initiation of healing clubs with the help of trained counselors from GAERG and Baho Neza,” Mugwaneza said, adding that this approach has significantly reduced the rising mental health cases among young people.
The campaign’s overarching goal is to reduce stigma surrounding mental health, enhance mental health services in various healthcare facilities, and provide diverse avenues for students to express their mental health concerns and emotions.
Sylvain Nkundabakize, Director of Musenyi high school, emphasized that mental health issues have been a significant factor contributing to school dropouts, as these problems often stem from family dynamics.
Nkundabakize added that students’ mental health is closely linked to their parents’ mental well-being. “This connection directly affects their academic performance. Therefore, parents must receive support, which will, in turn, help them address their children’s mental health needs,” he recommended.
He further urged, “Parents require comprehensive guidance and counseling to gain a deeper understanding of mental health, as many of them are unaware of the impacts. This lack of awareness often leads to the inability to provide essential resources for their children, resulting in high dropout rates. Positive role models and constructive parental involvement are crucial.”
Anita Bazizane, an A-level student at Musenyi high school, believes that promoting mental health awareness among students will decrease feelings of neglect and isolation while fostering a stronger sense of belonging within the educational environment.
The healing clubs have already been launched in several schools, including Musenyi high school, Gitagata Primary School, and Nkanga secondary school in Bugesera district.