Under the cloak of partial anonymity, Jean de Dieu, a media analyst, recounted how his life gradually began to unravel - he was having difficulty sleeping, severe bouts of anxiety, losing weight, and feeling unable to communicate with his friends. He felt emotionally fatigued, so he sought advice from his friend — a doctor — who recommended he seek support from the Ingenzi Health Initiative (which addresses mental health issues among young individuals through innovative and youth-friendly approaches.) While there, doctors observed signs and symptoms of depression which they explained to him in detail, providing an understanding of mental health. “Realising I had depression, gaining an understanding of mental health, and receiving support from a health organisation facilitated my journey to seeking help. Starting April 5, I began therapy. It has been a process, but I can see an improvement, for instance, I can now talk to and meet my friends without any hesitation, and my self-esteem has been boosted,” 25-year-old Jean de Dieu said. Despite the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders’ efforts to tackle mental health challenges, many young people, such as Jean de Dieu, continue to suffer from mental health difficulties. A study conducted by UNICEF Rwanda has illuminated the growing prevalence of mental health disorders among adolescents, as well as the existing stigma and misconceptions which make it difficult for them to seek assistance or share their experiences openly. In December 2022, Jocelyne K. Uwibambe, Richard Chance Niyongabo, and Arstide Dusenge, three medical Rwandan doctors, founded the Kicukiro-based Ingenzi Health Initiative in response to this need. “During adolescence, young individuals go through significant biological, psychological, and social changes, which can often be stressful and lead to mental health challenges. The initiative acknowledges the mental health problems among adolescents such as depression, anxiety disorders, trauma, and behavioural problems such as disruptive behaviour and substance abuse,” Dr Uwibambe told The New Times. She further noted that despite extensive efforts by government authorities and other actors involved in adolescent mental health, the issue remains problematic and often goes underserved and is stigmatized in the community. “Additionally, there are significant disparities in access to care and support for young people facing mental health problems.” Aiding the youth The Ingenzi Health Initiative employs educative games called Ingenzi Tuganire, which provide comprehensive coverage of both mental health and sexual reproductive health topics. The doctors believe that through interactive and engaging games, young individuals can gain mental health education to understand emotions, manage stress, build resilience, and access support when necessary, among other things. Additionally, Uwibambe explained that the initiative offers educational resources in the form of booklets, like the Isooko pocket booklet and Ingenzi story books, highlighting that these resources can provide information and raise awareness about mental health, common mental health conditions, and the importance of seeking help. ALSO READ: Youth urged to break silence on mental health issues “By promoting understanding and reducing stigma, the initiative helps create a more supportive environment for those experiencing mental health challenges,” Uwibambe said. The initiative promotes collaborative communication, enabling the exchange of Ingenzi testimonies as well as creating a safe and supportive environment to foster active participation and open dialogue, she added. ALSO READ: Activists speak out on drivers of mental health issues among youth Uwibambe stated that creating an environment that encourages young people to talk about and share their mental health journeys and healing processes with others can help to reduce isolation and motivate them to seek aid and guidance from their peers, mentors, and professionals. The doctors noted that the initiative seeks to give young people the power to become agents of positive change in their lives and communities; by equipping them with information, skills, and resources relevant to mental health, they can make informed choices, construct their own coping mechanisms, and assist their friends. ALSO READ: New initiative to curb mental health challenges in schools The practitioners have no doubt that empowering the youth can lead to better self-care practices, increased resilience, and reduced vulnerability to mental health issues. The initiative anticipates creating an inclusive and healthy society where innovation and creativity are unified to improve the quality of healthcare and the way of living for youth and young people with disabilities. The goal of the initiative is to enhance health edutainment by addressing the major challenges to young people’s health through the design and provision of outstanding youth-driven solutions that prioritise accessibility, affordability, and availability.