The role of Nhanga in mental health research
In mental health research, creating safe spaces is not just a word but a fundamental necessity. The Nhanga as a safe space in research fosters an environment where individuals can openly share their experiences, emotions, and challenges without fear of judgement or stigma. Rozaria Memorial Trust, an organisation based in Zimbabwe came up with the Nhanga initiative; a safe space of healing, sharing experiences and empowering each other, and the initiative has been used in different platforms.
Mental health in rural communities is a topic of growing concern and interest. Rural areas face unique challenges that can impact mental health outcomes for individuals living in these communities, especially women and girls. Mental health in rural communities is often associated with witchcraft, and it is hard for the communities to understand depression and stress. Rural communities often have distinct cultural norms, values, and traditions that influence attitudes and beliefs about mental health. Stigma surrounding mental health issues persists and there may be cultural reluctance to discuss mental health openly, leading to lack of awareness and understanding about mental health conditions.
Understanding Nhanga safe space in Mental Health in Research
Mental health issues can be isolating, and individuals often feel alone in their struggles. Nhanga spaces offer a sense of belonging and community, connecting individuals who share similar experiences and challenges. The emotional support provided within these spaces can be empowering and therapeutic, as participants can relate to one another and share coping strategies. Thus support networks can enhance mental well-being and foster a senses of resilience. At the same time a Nhanga empowers individuals to take an active role in their own mental health journey. By providing a space where voices are heard and valued, participants gain a sense of agency and ownership over their experiences. This empowerment can lead to increased self-awareness, self-advocacy, and engagement in seeking appropriate mental health support and resources.
In addition, stigma surrounding mental health remains a significant barrier to seeking help and discussing mental health openly. Nhanga space challenge this stigma by creating an environment where mental health is normalised and accepted. Participants can freely discuss their experiences together without fear of judgement, allowing for deeper understanding and empathy among individuals. Through these conversations, Nhanga spaces contribute to reducing the social stigma associated with mental health.
Nhanga space provides individuals with a supportive environment where they feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, emotions, and experiences related to mental health. These spaces create a non-judgemental atmosphere that encourages openness and vulnerability, allowing individuals to share their struggles, fears, and trumps without fears of stigma and discrimination.
Fostering Openness, it was exciting that during the research on mental health in Zimbabwe, Shamva District, the Nhanga space created an atmosphere of trust and respect, sharing their ideas, perspectives, and concerns without fear of being criticised. The participants during the research created their own support group which opened dialogue that allowed exchange of thoughts which led to innovative breakthroughs and insights.
In conclusion, the Nhanga space in research fosters open dialogue, inclusion of diverse perspectives, psychological safety, collaboration, mentorship, addresses sensitive topics and prioritises well-being. By cultivating an environment of trust, respect, and support, Nhanga spaces empower researchers to explore new frontiers, challenge existing knowledge, and make significant contributions to their respective fields. By embracing the role of Nhanga as a safe space, researchers can unlock a deeper understanding of mental health experiences and contribute to evidence -based interventions and policies. As we move forward, let us advocate for the creation of safe spaces, recognising their immense value in shaping the future of mental health research and promoting positive change in society.
Hildah joined Rozaria Memorial Trust (RMT) as Community Engagement Coordinator after its establishment in 2007. She is also a counsellor and very active in the community she works in, providing psychosocial support to young women and girls, and people living with HIV in rural communities. At RMT, she is responsible for facilitating and coordinating community programming. She works closely with community Nhangas, mentors, civil society organizations, and local authorities including chiefs and village heads in advancing the rights of girls and young women.