Sitawa Wafula: Kenya’s Young Mental Health Tzar

Sitawa Wafula was diagnosed with epilepsy and bipolar disorder when she was just 17. Her experience of being a woman with a mental illness in Kenya has, at times, been harrowing. She once lost a job because she had a seizure, and had to drop out of university after being raped and finding nowhere to turn for support. For the past few years, Wafula, 31, has been telling the stories of the challenges she faces in a blog. In 2014, the blog, which has been cited as one of the only honest accounts of living with mental illness in Africa, won Wafula $25,000 from Google. She used the money to set up Kenya’s first free mental health support line, My Mind, My Funk.

Two years on, the helpline receives around 25,000 text messages a year and is estimated to have helped nearly 11,000 people. Wafula says she personally answers, on average, 100 emails a day from people who want advice on things like alcoholism, suicide and drug use.

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