Say No to Stigma

Say No to Stigma – Round 2 (2023)

Principal Investigators: Ozge Sensoy Bahar, PhD (Lead PI), Penina Acayo Laker, MFA (MPI), and Proscovia Nabunya, PhD (MPI)

International collaborator: Dr. Noeline Nakasujja, Makerere University

“Say No to Stigma-Round 2” is the second phase of the Africa Initiative-funded study Say No to Stigma – Round 1, during which a set of visual solutions focused on mental health awareness and stigma was created in collaboration with primary school students in Uganda.  The second phase is funded by the Global Incubator SEED Grant from McDonnell International Scholars Academy at Washington University in St. Louis.

The  widespread misconceptions towards mental illness and mental health stigma among children  negatively impact their health-seeking behaviors, self-esteem, and social inclusion. This fosters a social climate of stigma among youth, who are then reluctant to seek help for mental health issues. The use of visuals, when co-created with the target audience, can be effective communication tools to address mental health stigma, including in schools. However, no such interventions exist in schools in Uganda. This pilot randomized clinical trial will test the impact of the visual solutions developed during Round 1 on increasing mental health awareness and reducing stigma among children in primary schools.

Say No to Stigma – Round 1

Principal Investigator: Ozge Sensoy Bahar, PhD; Penina Acayo Laker, MFA

Project Team Member: Proscovia Nabunya, PhD

Current mental health services are severely under-equipped in sub-Saharan Africa. Uganda reports that when screened in primary care clinics, 12 to 29% of children present with mental health symptoms. There is widespread misconception toward mental illness and its etiology as well as stigmatization of people with mental illnesses, including children, which results in little or no intention to seek help.

“Say no to Stigma: Making mental health visible among school-going children in rural Uganda” is a one year pilot project funded by the Africa Initiative at Washington University. This study will develop a set of new age-appropriate, culturally relevant signage and messaging around mental health and stigma to be used in Uganda’s primary schools. The team will develop visual solutions through a set of extensive creative workshops and focus groups with children, school administrators and teachers from two primary schools in the Masaka region of Uganda. Knowledge from this study will inform the development of a larger study to test the impact of messaging in school environments and children’s perceptions of mental illness and mental health stigma.