How Rwanda is spearheading efforts to tackle mental health

  • Samantha Keon

Around 12% of people in sub-Saharan Africa live with a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and alcohol and drug use disorders — a figure that’s likely to be higher following COVID-19. In Rwanda, the percentage of people with a mental illness is thought to be above the regional average and the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi may be a major contributing factor. Rwanda has taken steps to make the provision of mental health services a priority. A year after the genocide, the Rwandan government developed a mental health policy, making it among the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to have one. And in 2018, Rwanda’s updated strategic plan for its health sector set ambitious new targets for expanding mental health care services within the community, including through decentralization and integration into primary health care. I worked on this project as a video editor for Devex in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson and the government of Rwanda.