Difu Simo is a mental health awareness campaign in Kilifi County that is using art to create a space for dialogue between the world of biomedicine and traditional medicines with the aim of understanding mental illness from a community perspective and addressing stigma. Difu Simo is a Kigiriama phrase which means “Breaking Free”. The campaign is a collaboration between the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust in Kilifi, Documentary Institute of Eastern Africa (DIEA), Malindi District Cultural Association (MADCA) and the County Government of Kilifi.
The team conducted their first mental health awareness campaign in Kilifi County dubbed “Vilalu Si Utsai” translating to, “Mental Illness is not Witchcraft”. The week long campaign which launched on 3rd August 2020 at Gede town in Kilifi North Sub-County attracted over 1,000 community members. The campaign team, which comprised of approximately 81 members combined the diverse expertise of mental health practitioners, performing local artists, experts in the culture and traditions of the Mijikenda community and a team of youth volunteers dedicated to sharing the events engagements real-time on the Difu Simo social media platforms.
The team held community engagements showcasing over 15 poems, dances and songs specially composed for the campaign in the local Giriama and Swahili dialects. Sensitization sessions were led by mental health practitioners to demystify myths around causes of mental disorders and to provide information about available health care options. The campaign activities also provided a unique platform for insightful discussions between community members, traditional practitioners and biomedical practitioners particularly tackling myths on causes of mental illness.
Dedicated to ensuring the awareness messages reached an even broader national and international audience, the engagements were shared across the Difu Simo social media platforms where virtual interactions were conducted via live streams session, videos and social media posts. The campaign activities were also shared by the local media on both broadcast and print media.
The campaign ended on 9th August 2020 at the Karisa Maitha grounds, Kilifi, which was preceded by an awareness walk procession from Pwani University. Key achievements of the campaign included spearheading the formation of a community led volunteer team which will provide a weekly catering service to homeless people with mental illness, through contributions from community members. Difu Simo envisions communities where people living with mental illness and their families can openly speak out about it, are rightfully treated, can receive appropriate early health care and where traditional practitioners and biomedical practitioners work together to ensure their optimum care and management.
For more information on Difu Simo, visit their website: https://difusimo.org/