Science for Africa Foundation Launches Being Initiative to Address Youth Mental Health Globally

In a concerted effort to comprehend and alleviate the mental health stressors confronting young people worldwide, the Science for Africa Foundation (SFA Foundation) has pledged a substantial sum of USD 10.4 million towards the Being initiative. This funding endeavor aims to foster collaboration across continents in multidisciplinary research networks, focusing on addressing crucial knowledge gaps pertaining to emerging stressors affecting the mental health and overall well-being of youth.

The initiative, spearheaded by the SFA Foundation, acknowledges the vulnerability of the youth phase, characterized by emotional, cognitive, and social development. It specifically targets stressors such as peer pressure, unemployment, and academic stress, all of which can have adverse effects on brain development. Studies indicate that around 50% of mental disorders manifest by age 14, escalating to 75% by age 24, underscoring the pressing need for targeted interventions (Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005). Of particular concern is the alarming prevalence of suicide among individuals aged 15 to 29, highlighting the urgent necessity for global endeavors to tackle this issue (World Health Organization, 2021).

In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where resource constraints often impede access to mental healthcare, up to 90% of the general population, including youth, lack adequate mental healthcare services (World Psychiatry, 2010). To address this gap, the SFA Foundation, in collaboration with global partners of the Being initiative, has strategically identified thirteen priority LMICs to enhance mental well-being among young people aged 10 to 24.

The call for proposals invites researchers from diverse backgrounds, encouraging applications from early-career, mid-career, and established professionals alike. Priority consideration will be given to applicants from the identified countries, fostering networks that encompass collaborators from across the globe. The envisioned projects aim to facilitate global collaboration, providing insights into the long-term ramifications of stressors on youth mental health.

Byron Bitanihirwe, the Programme Manager for Being at the SFA Foundation, highlighted the transformative potential of good mental health in enabling personal growth and contributing meaningfully to society. The initiative not only seeks to inform policies and interventions but also aims to shift societal discourse from stigma to support, nurturing a culture that prioritizes and embraces the mental well-being of young people.

All applications must be submitted in English through the SFA Foundation Agaseke Grant Management System by Friday, April 19, 2024, at 1700 HRS (EAT).


Article by Jed Mwangi