Mental Health is one of the Ntha Foundation’s thematic areas.
Mental health is at the forefront of the digital health movement, and its progress has been further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This can be seen in the rapid shift to digital channels among formal mental health systems, and in the surge in demand as we anticipate the subsequent mental health pandemic in many countries.
The unprecedented COVID‐19 crisis presents an imperative for mental health care systems to make digital mental health interventions a routine part of care (Taylor et al., 2020). Because of this, many therapists have rapidly moved to using telehealth in place of in‐person contact. It is imperative that we find ways to tackle mental health challenges via digital platforms.
Digital-based mental health interventions have already been shown to work in experimental settings and, in some cases, have been successfully scaled for use in larger populations. The first wave of digital interventions has been based on the web-based administration of cognitive behavioural therapy (Husseini & Shekhar, 2019).
This is often assisted by trained psychologists, and is increasingly delivered by autonomous AI-powered chatbots that offer personalized counselling and psychosocial interventions through highly scalable platforms with minimal incremental costs.
The Ntha Foundation was one of the 6 organisations entrusted by the Malawi Government as funded by the World Bank to operationalise the Digital Skills For All (Luntha Ndi Chuma) Program – a 2 year training program targeted at the youth, to empower them with basic digital skills, and help young entrepreneurs in the field of ICT.
As an organisation, we have two flagship programs:
All the trainees under our programs partake in the Digi Savvy fully funded program. We also have other trainees who are not a part of our flagship programs, but partake in the training.
Thus far, we have programmed and implemented four courses as Digi Savvy under Digital Malawi:
Introduction To Computer Basics
Introduction To Digital Branding
Introduction To Digital Marketing
Introduction To Digital Communication
We are aware that introducing young people, particularly young African girls and boys, to digital platforms, without equipping them with skills in how to be safe and secure online would be irresponsible on our part. It was on this basis that we went further to program a course in Online Safety – Cyber Safety and Cyber Security. Our course was created in response to our worries and assumptions, not backed by relevant research in Malawi. We would thus like to do research in Malawi, to understand better how the shift to Digital is affecting Malawian youth, and how we can program our courses better to help them better adapt to digital.
It is also very much within our interest to carry out similar research, and implement projects which are relevant, and help curb the impacts of the shift to digital on the mental health of the youth in southern Africa.
One of our flagship projects is the Kwathu Online Safety project. Read more about the project below: