Belgian Platform for International Health    ENG | FR

Be-cause health matters 14

Mental health voices from Africa: experiences and lessons learned

Feedback on the organisation and participation in the Conference

The conference "Voices of Mental Health in Africa: Experiences and Lessons Learned" was a place to exchange and share experiences, but it was also (and primarily) part of a broader timeline and loftier ambitions.

The conference in June 2021, led by the Be-cause health platform in Belgium, was a new step both in this joint project and in the international agenda. In this case, this conference aimed to give impetus to plans for an interactive and participatory forum on mental health in French-speaking African countries.

The desired result of a large number of African participants and a large number of African countries represented was achieved. From the registered participants, 164 were from countries on the African continent: 147 from Sub-Saharan Africa and 17 from North Africa and the Mediterranean. In total, 25 countries from sub-Saharan Africa and 7 countries from North Africa and the Mediterranean were represented.

Overview of registered participants and their countries

The participants, who came from various backgrounds - mental health sector, social sector, medical sector... - and worked in various settings - ministries, international organisations, NGOs, research centres, community associations... - particularly appreciated the pleasant working atmosphere and the conviviality during the conference.

The contributions of Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians, Florence BAINGANA (WHO Africa) and Julian EATON (LSHTM, UK) in the opening session gave a good overview of the current challenges and needs of the population in the world and in Africa in particular in the field of mental health and psychosocial support.

The participants were very active in the plenary sessions and working groups. All the presentations by the speakers and discussants led to exciting discussions with the speakers and among the participants.

The excellent translation made it easy to follow all the contributions and interventions, so the many online interactions went smoothly.

Unfortunately, some connection problems during the conference did not allow all speakers and participants to connect at the appropriate moments.

Creating recordings and compiling all of the presentations given during the conference was something that could be further developed. The contacts and working relationships established between the participants and the organisations that are operational in the African countries could also be worked upon even more.

In order to achieve these objectives, a "Community of Practice on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support" will be set up from Be-cause health in Belgium. Such a platform offers all possibilities to continue the regular exchange of experiences, questions, support and advice between interested parties on specific topics. It is important that the participants themselves can also give direction to the "community of practice" in which they participate.

The themes of the conference working groups and the conference synthesis are the starting points for the concrete development of the "Community of Practice".

Conference Contributors