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  • Writer's pictureRuth First Trust

Connecting the dots: a global view of the youth mental health crisis

“There is a youth mental health crisis around the globe. Suicide is the #1 health related cause of death for youth. Mental health is the health issue of this generation. There is an urgent call to action being heard globally asking for an elimination of the stigma and shame surrounding youth mental health struggles and demanding an increase in open dialogue and more accessible, relevant, and timely support. I firmly believe that the way to help reduce youth mental illness and bring transformation to the system is by understanding the core issues faced by the youth themselves. Connecting the Dots is the first documentary of its kind to exclusively bring forward their stories and lived experiences in an emotional and powerful way.” Noemi Weis, director

We screened this documentary at our mentor session at the end of July. While the whole film resonated with us, the Friendship Bench, pioneered in Harare, Zimbabwe and adopted in New York City, was a favourite “call to action” concept. For the past eight years, our mentor sessions have aimed to provide an environment for us to connect, listen and share a safe space together. This is what our Ruthie’s had to say about the morning:

“For me the session was comforting because during the discussion when I had heard everyone’s stories, it helped me realise that I'm truly not alone and that there is a support system put in place to help each of us which is really uplifting.”

Nchongator Besong, RF2021

“This film showed us how the issue of mental health is common amongst the youth in all parts of the world and that we do not have to feel isolated with our struggles. We should come together with purpose to tackle mental health issues by raising community leaders to hear what our communities have to say.”

Heaven Nen, RF 2016

“Overall, the experience was quite emotional. It was really comforting to witness people telling their stories and making links as to how I related to them. Today taught me that you cannot hide your pain because it is going to come out one day. The more you keep it in, the more it eats you up inside thus forcing you to turn to extreme forms of self-harm. It is important to raise awareness about mental health because it allows people who are struggling with it to feel comfortable to express themselves and people who are not struggling with it to recognise those who are.” Favor Onyekwere, RF 2020

“I'm so very grateful for the session that we had. It taught me that even the happiest people will always go through tribulations. Mental health does not apply to a certain group of people but to people all around the world, people of different ages, race, religion, and sexual orientation. We as humans, especially the youth of this generation, should educate ourselves so that we can navigate through such circumstances. We should be vocal even if we don't have the courage and be kind with each other.”

Khumo Akaeze, RF 2021

“I really enjoyed the Connecting the Dots session. Not only did I connect with the video in various ways, but I also connected with my mentor and fellow Ruthies. Being in the Ruth First scholarship program has taught me many things but one that I treasure most is that I am not alone, and knowing that, makes me feel loved and safe.”

Keamogetswe Edom, RF 2021

“I have come very far on my mental health journey. Regardless of how much it hurts, I will continue to be vulnerable. I'll keep trying to be kinder and wiser. I will keep looking forward and moving through my life with positive intention and a willingness to be wrong. It's the only way I can learn. And I will never stop learning.” Layla Fynn, RF 2018

Layla is pictured above (centre) with Escar Ndonga and their mentor Claudia Steincke from the Orange mentor group.

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