An upsurge in the demographics of global incidence of mental, neurological and substance use disorders (MNS) are reflected in Africa: the most disabling disorders occur in persons between 10 to 44 years and include major depressive and anxiety disorders (University of Washington & Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2013). Although there is a paucity of empirical data to ascertain the current burden of MNS in Africa, in some primary care settings, the rates of depression and other common mental disorders are reported to be above 20% (Chibanda, etal, 2014).
Despite the upsurge in mental health disorders, Africa still has one of the largest treatment gaps for MNS primarily because of poorly developed and underfunded health services, exacerbated by the brain drain of health professionals (Shidhaye, etal, 2015) . Most countries in the region commit less than 1% of their health budget to psychiatric care, with an emphasis on institution-based care often marked by gross human rights violations (Chibanda, 2017a). Africa’s large treatment gap for mental health services is also a function of the shortage of mental health specialists — in sub-Saharan Africa, there is just one psychiatrist for every 1·5 million people (Chibanda, 2017b).
The SFA Foundation’s Mental Health Programme is designed to advance an enabling, sustainable research environment for mental wellbeing in Africa by:
- Producing quality findings and generating data to inform policy and drive locally relevant research agendas in Africa.
- Training future generations of mental health professionals.
- Increasing public awareness of mental health research findings to the public, policymakers and other stakeholders.
- Promoting youth-focused approaches to create positive, lasting change in local communities and beyond.