African Heroes: Destigmatising mental health issues

A passion for what they do makes these proud Africans and their acts of service an asset to our beautiful continent.

Sitawa Wafula (34), My Mind My Funk; The Sitawa Wafula Mental Health Academy; mental health advocate and strategist, philanthropist and social entrepreneur – Nairobi, Kenya

At the age of 17, Sitawa was diagnosed with epilepsy. A year later, she was sexually assaulted and the unchecked trauma from that ordeal was later diagnosed as bipolar disorder. Living in a society where there was little information about mental health and no proper support systems, Sitawa experienced stigma stemming from ignorance and cultural beliefs about mental health.

However, she used her experiences to create a forum for Africans to freely access information about mental health issues and get the necessary support. Through an award-winning blog, as well as her mental health social enterprise, called My Mind, My Funk Sitawa ran Kenya’s first free mental health support line, which has assisted tens-of-thousands of Kenyans struggling with mental health issues.

Sitawa Wafula, mental health advocate and strategist, philanthropist and social entrepreneur from Nairobi, Kenya.

She currently splits her time between producing a weekly podcast (mymindmyfunk.simplecast.fm) which aims to make mental health conversations everyday occurrences in African homes and mentoring early-stage service mental health service providers in Africa through her academy. So far, she has worked with 30 champions from eight African countries who have already built programmes that are making a difference in the mental health space.

Her incredible work has led to Sitawa being named a Non-communicable Disease Champion by the Kenyan Ministry of Health, she's been recognised among the top 40 under 40 women in Kenya, Women Leading Africa, Top 50 Most Impactful Global Social Innovators, and Top 42 African Innovators to Watch, while also writing for and being featured extensively in print media and by BBC and Al Jazeera.

Sitawa is also an Aspen Institute Fellow and has done a TED talk which has over 800 000 views. In September 2018, she was invited to speak at the UN General Assembly's first-ever convening on mental health.

Podcast: mymindmyfunk.simplecast.fm

Website: SitawaWafula.com

Instagram: @SitawaWafula

Twitter: @Sitawa_Wafula