When mental health advocate Mercy Mkandawire was invited to discuss mental disorders on a radio show last year, she received overwhelming feedback that people wanted to know more. This hunger for information inspired Mercy to create her own show, dedicated solely to bringing awareness to mental health disorders and explaining how to manage them.
The Fresh Minds Radio Program, stationed in Blantyre, Malawi, instantly created a support network where listeners could learn and share by offering a variety of resources on different disorders. As the program grew, Mercy and her team were astounded by the number of people who could relate to the stories and struggles shared on the show.
In both rural and urban areas of Malawi, many people don’t know that mental health disorders exist. Written off by those around them as “mad,” many are forced to struggle in silence, unaware that treatment is available. This is what the Fresh Minds Radio Program aims to solve. Mercy’s biggest goal is to reach as many people as she can, focusing mainly on ages 14 to 29 when mental disorders begin to develop and worsen, to educate them on the details of their conditions and provide the support required to control them at a young age.
The first season of the show includes seven programs that cover issues such as OCD, anxiety, depression, stress management, and more. The show also encourages listeners to interact through Facebook, WhatsApp, and telephone to share their stories, engage with others, and find the community they need. Mercy is currently in the process of collecting funding for season two.
She shared how inspired she has been by listeners of all ages stepping up to share challenging personal details in order to connect with and help others. The smallest detail of a mental health struggle could resonate with someone and help them feel less alone. Mercy has felt the impact of this bravery and positivity personally and said she is no longer afraid to speak out on the issues she cares about.
“I’m now more confident. I was really afraid of the limelight, I was afraid of going out and just putting myself out there and presenting my ideas,” she said. “After I got the acceptance from The Pollination Project I thought ‘Okay, somebody really sees something in what I’m doing.’ It was really motivating and I’m still so grateful to this day.”
Mercy is channeling this newfound confidence into pitching, advocating for, and growing the show. She hopes to continue expanding to educate and empower more young minds.