Mental Health Integrated Innovations Programme (MHII)

Text Size:

The Challenge

About five to seven percent of adolescents in Malawi suffer from Depression, yet this is an issue that has gone largely unaddressed. The effects of Depression can be devastating for youth who struggle with the illness: relationships with family and friends are strained, performance at school and at work suffers and the risk of suicide increases dramatically. However, low mental health literacy and inadequate support services mean that few Malawian youth suffering from Depression receive the care they need.

Our Solution

The MHII Programme seeks to address three focus areas in an effort to improve the mental health and social well being of young people in Malawi. The first is increasing youth-based mental literacy so that young people and those who interact and work with them are better able to identify and seek care for Depression. The second focus area is introducing new communication tools to disseminate mental health information and provide support services. Third, the MHII Programme seeks to build capacity of health providers, educators and youth club leaders in the identification and care of adolescent Depression. 


The MHII Programme is structured around five main objectives:

  1. Create multi-stakeholder commitment with key actors, such as government ministries and healthcare providers.
  2. Increase mental health literacy in youth through mental health curriculum development and training for schools and youth clubs, providing training for peer educators in youth Depression and helping to facilitate peer educator-run youth club sessions.
  3. Complement youth club activities with a youth-friendly, interactive communication strategy. This entails building capacity in radio stations, designing and producing weekly radio shows and the use of an interactive voice response (IVR) tool to enable youth participation via mobile phones.
  4. Upgrade the capacity of health systems for identifying Depression in young people through providing training for primary care providers and “go to” youth leaders/educators.
  5. Share, evaluate, and provide recommendations to policy makers on how to continue to support and scale-up mental health initiatives.


  • Capacity building and in-station training services provided to three radio stations in Malawi during the first phase.
  • Mental health programs, specifically targeted towards youth, are aired weekly to complement youth club sessions.
  • The IVR tool has been developed, installed and is being used to track progress, receive feedback from youth and disseminate messages via mobile phones.
  • Over 1 million youth have been reached out to through the weekly program since its inception
  • The radio dramas garner approximately 5,000 listeners each week.
  • On average, 500 youth interact with the program each week through SMS and ICTs.
  • Over 17,000 actively engaged youth following and participating with the program through Facebook.
  • Curriculum development and training for primary care providers and “go to” youth leaders/educators has been provided by Dr. Stan Kutcher and other mental health experts.
  • Participated in the revision of the Malawi Youth Friendly Health Services Manual, most notably regarding the addition of a mental health component. 
  • Increased the number of young people seeking treatment for mental health issues throughout the duration of this program.
  • By establishing and managing the program's Facebook page, FRT created a medium where concerned youth can leave messages about their mental health, sexual and reproductive health and/or various other struggles, and subsequently receive referrals to accredited health care providers.

The Story

The Mental Health Integrated Innovations Programme is a unique project in FRT’s portfolio. It is our organization’s first foray into radio programming that specifically targets youth. The great success of this project demonstrates the effectiveness of ICTs for information distribution in a variety of sectors and across a wide range of target populations.

This project is a product of FRT’s strategic partnership with Farm Radio International (FRI). FRI, as the grantee of funding from Grand Challenges Canada, is primarily responsible for the overarching framework of the project and providing strategic support. Mental health expertise, curriculum design and training services are provided by Dr. Stanley Kutcher of Dalhousie University in Canada and others. These partnerships function similar to those that exist in FRT’s agriculture extension projects: the information and capacity building provided by sector experts is scaled up and widely disseminated using FRT’s proven participatory ICT strategy. In addition to widening the scope of the MHII Programme in Malawi, the FRT team also assists with its implementation in Tanzania.

Although the second phase of MHII is set to wrap up in September, FRI, in partnership with FRT, has submitted a proposal for the extension of this program.  The proposal is in the process of being reviewed and considered for approval by Grand Challenges Canada.

MHII Project Profile

Focus: Mental health

Location: Salima, Lilongwe and Mchinji districts, Malawi

Implementation Period: August 2012-September 2015

Status: Ongoing

Project Lead: Augustine Mulomole, Program Officer

Partners: Farm Radio International, Grand Challenges Canada, Dr. Stan Kutcher of Dalhousie University

Radio Station Partners: Mudziwathu Community Radio Station, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, Zodiak Broadcasting Station