Wellcome Data Prize offers the chance to better understand the mental health crisis amongst young South Africans

Data Prize In Mental Health Launched In South Africa.



March 31, 2022, 11:17 p.m.

Social Finance UK - a not-for-profit organization has partnered with global charitable foundation Wellcome, to launch the Data Prize in Mental Health in the UK and SA. The application process will open in April and will see the selection of multidisciplinary teams receive funding through the discovery, prototyping, and sustainability phase, with a little over R10 million ((£500 000) being shared among the three winning teams.

Open to any discipline that uses evidence in rigorous and transparent ways, the prize invites South Africans that work in fields such as mental health research, psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience to explore what existing longitudinal datasets can tell us about preventing, treating, and managing anxiety and depression in young people.

Zakariah Martah, who is part of Wellcome’s Youth Advisory Network in SA, sheds light on the significance of the project for young South Africans: “Our youth in SA are currently facing major challenges in the shape of increased poverty, a lack of hope for the future and fewer opportunities to thrive – and yet, few of them seek help to deal with the complex emotions that arise as a result. We need to prioritise our youth’s wellbeing by supporting them and providing them with more opportunities.”

South Africa’s Mental Health Crisis

What has been dubbed ‘the mental health crisis in South Africa’ by healthcare professionals, is nothing new, but is sadly growing in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The South Africa U-Report Survey, released in June 2021, shows us that 55% of South Africa’s young people are anxious about growing violence and gangsterism, and how the pandemic has created fertile ground for these issues. 64% of those included in the survey have not sought help.

Further to this, according to the Mental health and Covid-19 in South Africa journal published in May 2021, 1 in 6 South Africans already suffered from anxiety, depression, or a substance use disorder prior to the pandemic. The same paper reveals:

  • Just 27% of South Africans with severe mental disorders receive treatment
  • Just 5% of the national health budget goes to mental health (for 2019)
  • Only 50% of public hospitals with ‘mental health services’ actually have a psychiatrist

“Anxiety and depression are already among the biggest causes of disability in the world and rising, but we still know very little about what makes a difference when preventing, managing and treating these conditions. Wellcome wants to change that by increasing scientific understanding and developing new and improved early interventions,” says Dr. Catherine Sebastian, Head of Evidence: Mental Health Challenge Area, Wellcome.

Do you have an article that can be relevant to the African Tech space?

Submit your news stories, articles or press releases to editor@digitaltimes.africa


Making mental health research more collaborative

Interdisciplinary learning is key to progressing mental health research which is why we are funding multi-disciplinary teams to take part in the prize.

Supporting the project, Director of Population Science at Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), Kobus Herbst says “the mental health of young people is an important public health concern. The Data Prize is an exciting development to bring a fresh perspective to understanding and addressing this challenge. DSI-MRC SAPRIN is delighted to support this initiative.”

To actively involve those that are most likely to benefit from this new research, Social Finance set up a Youth Advisory Network. This enables a group of Young People from South Africa and the UK with lived experience of anxiety and depression to input on key decisions within the prize, from the overall design to how proposals will be evaluated.

The data prize will elicit input around the question: what are the active ingredients that make a difference in preventing, treating, and managing anxiety and depression in young people? What works, for whom, in what contexts, and why?

“Through the Prize, we want to encourage teams in South Africa to use existing data resources to develop new insights on youth anxiety and depression. But mainly, we’re hoping to hear from South African researchers and data scientists about the digital tools they need – and to fund multi-disciplinary teams to develop them. I can’t wait to see what the teams come up with,” says Dr. Ekin Bolukbasi, Data Prizes manager, Wellcome.

Prizes include £40 000 worth of funding each for 10 teams during the Discovery Phase of the initiative and a further £100 000 in funding to be allocated to five teams during the Prototyping Phase. In the final Sustainability Phase, £500 000 will be shared among the three winning teams.

Participants can register their interest Here


tag: Prize, Mental Health, Wellcome,

Digital Times Africa Guest Author