Agents of Change for Mental Health: A Survey of Young People's Aspirations for Participation Across Five Low- and Middle-Income Countries.
Pavarini G., Booysen C., Jain T., Lai J., Manku K., Foster-Estwick A., Gatera G., Omari Juma D., Karorero D., Philip-Joe K., Genevive Ukachukwu C., Sartor C., Zeitz L., Farmer M., Singh I.
PURPOSE: Effective intervention, policy, and research in mental health and well-being (MHWB) require young people to be understood not only as beneficiaries, but also as active agents in codesigning and implementing initiatives. To identify pathways for young people's participation in promoting MHWB in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), this study surveyed young people's aspirations for engagement, their spheres of influence, capacity building needs, and key barriers to participation. METHODS: Using U-Report, United Nations Children's Emergency Fund's social messaging tool and data collection platform, we distributed a short quantitative survey to a nonrepresentative, but large sample of young people aged 15-29 across five LMICs: Nigeria, Brazil, Jamaica, South Africa, and Burundi. RESULTS: A total of 42,689 young people responded, with representation from most or all provinces within each country. Participants' average age was 23.8 years (SD = 3.77). Young people's core aspirations were to join a mental health awareness project and to support their peers. Participants considered schools and community settings to be the most important spheres for engagement. Lack of information about mental health was the main perceived barrier to participation, and mental health classes the main training need. DISCUSSION: In many countries, MHWB is not taught or discussed in schools and youth-led mental health interventions are rare. Findings from this study reveal clear aspirations for participatory engagement to promote MHWB among young people in LMICs. To support meaningful participation, policymakers and youth service providers must ensure that young people have access to mental health literacy training and opportunities to raise awareness in schools or community settings.