Development of a digital mental health platform in the era of COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya: findings and implications

Shillah Mwavua, Carol Ngunu, Isaiah Gitonga, Alex Royea, David Henia, Chitayi Boniface, Peter Memiah, Manasi Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: COVID-19 global pandemic exposed mental health gaps that have been salient among adolescents and young people. The glaring gaps include lack of information, undefined referral systems, and inadequate human resources for mental health. We aimed to develop a digital web-based platform to support young people's mental health and psychosocial needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: we adopted a mixed methods action research approach to design and pilot a digital mental health intervention for young people during the pandemic. We piloted the platform between Oct 2020 and July 2021, and recruited a sample of 150 young people through the community gathering spaces in three informal settlements in Nairobi City County using a convenient sampling method. Results: overall, participants reported that information provided to them via the platform was pertinent and beneficial, and that the self-assessments improved their mental health and psychosocial awareness and signposted them to available support and services. The support services consisted of informative weekly bulk emails and short motivational messages related to mental health, with a total of, 1343 short messages distributed through the short message service (SMS). Moreover, more than half the participants completed online self-assessments and participated in 19 online sessions. Conclusion: findings from this pilot study demonstrate that digital mental health systems are feasible and have the potential to improve access to mental health and psychosocial services. This is especially crucial during times of public health crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The realization of such systems requires swift multistakeholder partnership approach and investment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalPan African Medical Journal One Health
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Digital platforms
  • adolescents
  • mental health
  • young people


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