Are You Okay? – A Message From WHO Rwanda On Mental Health Day

By Dr Brian Chirombo – World Health Organization Representative to Rwanda

There is no shortage of calamities that can affect our mental health and well-being. With a pandemic in its third year, a rise in climate disasters and uncertain economic times, the setbacks can often feel endless. No community is immune.

This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is “Make mental health and well-being for all a global priority.” This is indeed what the World Health Organization (WHO) is doing in Rwanda. The mental health situation is challenging, especially for the youth.

Between 2019 and 2020, the Rwanda Integrated Health Management Information System recorded a 40% increase in people under 20 years consulting mental health services.

The mental health survey conducted in 2018 had also reported that 10.2% of those with mental health disorders were between the ages of 14 and 18 years.

To guide the national mental health response, WHO is supporting the Rwanda government in collaboration with other partners, to update the Mental Health Strategic Plan that sets new targets for expanding mental health care services to be achieved by 2024.

The strategy will seek to increase access to quality mental health services by decentralizing and integrating it into primary health care, ensuring services are appropriately budgeted and resourced across sectors.

It will include real and active multisectoral collaboration on the determinants of mental health. The plan will also encourage strategic and well-functioning promotion and prevention programmes and use a balanced, evidence-based biopsychosocial structure to care. This means understanding the biological, psychological and social factors that are affecting our emotional well-being.

The strategy will equally advocate for a person-centred, human rights-based, recovery-oriented approach, with mental health care embedded in services across sectors.

In our work, we see people of all backgrounds living with mental illness. Often misunderstood, their conditions are left untreated until the eleventh hour.

In a related issue, substance abuse numbers have been steadily rising as more and more people feel alone. Others contemplating suicide are experiencing hopelessness and feel there is no other option. We must be there to help them. There is always a way out – together.

If you notice changes in how you feel or behave, reach out to someone you trust. Consider seeing a healthcare worker who can assist you.
Equally, if you know someone who is not acting like themselves, ask them, “Are you ok?” Talk to them, lend them an ear and encourage them to seek help. They may not realise it but they need help.

We envision a world in which mental health is valued, promoted, and protected and where everyone can access the mental health care they need.

This World Mental Health Day 2022 is an opportunity for all of us – people with mental health concerns, governments, advocates, employers, employees, communities and families – to play our part in raising awareness and mobilising efforts to support those with mental health conditions.

Let us ensure that mental health and well-being becomes a global priority for all, including in our community.




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