Ubuntu is multi-pronged, community-based intervention aiming to tackle Common Mental Disorders in low- and middle-income countries. Through SMS broadcasts and task-shifting initiatives, we aim to increase access to care in rural-areas, and break the vicious cycle of poverty. Our short-term goal is to raise national public awareness and knowledge. Our long-term goal is to create societies able to reach their full potential, free from stigma and consequences of CMD’s.
Ubuntu = (Zulu) ‘togetherness/humanity to others’
Common Mental Disorders are a significant global problem affecting 1 billion people annually, but they disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries, where up to 90% of the burden of disease occurs. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated mental health issues, with a 25% increase in prevalence, particularly among vulnerable populations such as senior citizens and young adults. In Africa, there is a severe shortage of mental-health workers, with only 1.6 per 100,000 population in 2020, compared to 45 per 100,000 in Europe. Additionally, stigma surrounding CMD’s and affordability prevents many people from seeking care, leading to a downward spiral of poverty and poor health outcomes.
To address these challenges, we developed Ubuntu, a multi-faceted community-based intervention aimed at tackling the problem from both ends in our target country: Nigeria. Through the use of SMS broadcasts containing educational content on common mental disorders, we aim to raise public awareness and knowledge on a national scale, normalizing vulnerability and encouraging positive health-seeking behaviors. We will also scale up task shifting initiatives, training laypeople, community matriarchs and nurses to act as mental health workers in rural community hubs, where 60% of the population lives. This will not only increase the effective mental health workforce, but also promote intergenerational and bidirectional knowledge and support exchange, building capacity for future generations and protecting the most vulnerable.
In the short term, we aim to reach a potential 30 million people over the course of a year, while also linking them with trained, empathetic community-based mental health workers. In the long term, our goal is to break the cycle of poverty and mental health issues and create societies that can reach their full socioeconomic potential, free from stigma and the devastating consequences of suicide and mental health disorders.