The "Mobile Health Application for Young People’s Mental Health - Building Capacity by Implementing a Mobile Health Application for Young People’s Mental Health in Ethiopia and Somaliland" is one of the chosen One Health Network Funds 2021/2022 projects, led by Eshetu Girma.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimated that by the end of this century, 50% of all young people will live in Africa. Furthermore, half of all mental health conditions also start by 14 years of age, with suicide being the third leading cause of death in 15–19-year-olds. The quality of the environment where children and adolescents grow up has been shown to shape their well-being and development. Early negative experiences in homes, schools or digital spaces increases the risk of mental illness. In most cases, mental health issues are caused by a combination of biological, social, environmental and psychological factors.
The consequences of not addressing mental health and psychosocial development for children and adolescents extend to adulthood and limit opportunities for leading fulfilling lives. Prevention and early diagnosis of mental health problems in young people are therefore paramount and could reduce the number of people with a lifelong mental illness. For these reasons, innovations are required to promote mental health as the burden of illness, stigma and lack of public knowledge about mental disorders in children and adolescents remain high. School nurses are known to have a key role in promoting the health of children and adolescents at school. Similarly, in Ethiopia and Somaliland, health extension workers could help to address the need for child mental health care. Together, as an investment to the future, they could have an input in altering attitudes towards mental illness.
The objective of the project is to improve child and adolescent access to mental health services and appropriate care in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and in Hargeisa, Somaliland through a mobile (m-)health application screening tool to be used by school nurses and health extension workers, whilst evaluating its feasibility and validity.
The m-health application has already been developed by co-applicants from the MEGA project (https://mega.turkuamk.fi/) and is currently adopted in Zambia and South Africa. The m-health application provides a relatively easier tool to engage in conversations with young people about mental health with quicker screening results and better evaluation options.
By using a train-the-trainer approach, knowledge and application of the m-health application could be transferred from the Zambian and South African context to Ethiopia and Somaliland, thereby empowering African collaborations.