Dr Yvonne Kayiteshonga, Division Manager of the Mental Health Division at Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) has called for more awareness to tackle stigma and discrimination against people struggling with mental health issues. She said this during an event to mark the World Mental Health Day at national level under the theme Make mental health and well-being a global priority,” in Rubavu District on Thursday, October 27. Kayiteshonga highlighted that stigma and discrimination continue to be a barrier to social inclusion and access to the right mental health care. Everyone can have a mental health issue, but when you battle it and find nobody to comfort you, to listen to you or take you to the hospital or a health worker who can offer help, you become a patient. Stigma and discrimination against a person struggling with mental health issues make people fear accessing mental health services that are available, she said. Although more awareness is still needed, the Ministry of Health and RBC have been raising awareness countrywide, especially in the month of October which is globally designated as Mental Health Awareness Month. Kayiteshonga said that with partners, they toured the country educating people about mental well-being, causes of mental health issues and encouraging them to access mental health services. MoH continues to invest in mental health. According to the Ministry, a Mental Health Centre is under construction in Kigali and mental health services are provided at health centres and district hospitals across the country while specialised mental health services have been availed to different health facilities like Caraes Ndera and other teaching hospitals as well as referral hospitals. Statistics indicate a growing trend of mental health situation which is becoming increasingly challenging in general and specifically for young people growing up today. Covid-19 has increased the risk of having distress but there were also pre-existing mental health issues among adolescents. Suicide and substance abuse numbers have been steadily rising and young people are expected to become more and more lonely. On that, Kayiteshonga said that young people and adolescents are in the age range where they ask themselves a lot about their lives and have a lot of dreams, hence parents and guardians need to be there for them, help them to understand that it's normal and usher them out of those 'hard days'. “We envision a world in which mental health is valued, promoted and protected; where everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy mental health and to exercise their human rights; and where everyone can access the mental health care they need,” commented Kayiteshonga. Speaking during the event, Dr Augustin Gatera who represented the World Health Organisation (WHO) reminded the gathering that the institution estimates that globally, over a billion people have mental health issues with 14 per cent of them being young people. He urged them to embrace that it is a big issue that needs all hands, including youth's, on deck to handle by avoiding stigmatising and discriminating against people with mental health issues, bearing in mind that there is no life without mental health. Ruben Nshuti, one of the high school students who attended the event believes that different young people get mental health issues due to either conflict in their families or peer pressure that sometimes lures them into using drugs.